New-wave Korean restaurants are opening across the city as talented chefs prove there’s a lot more to their cuisine than bo ssam and bibimbap. From seasonal banchan to Korean-Italian mash-ups, here are four new spots that are bringing the glorious funk in exciting new ways.
Chef Justin Min seamlessly blends Korean and Italian influences in dishes like bulgogi risotto ($15), Bolognese mandu ($12), and, best of all, a hearty appetizer of rice cakes topped with a chunky pork-and-kimchi ragu ($11). Another triumphant combo at this restaurant, which opened on the edge of Koreatown last September, is the shellfish-loaded “bouillabbong” ($16), which merges the flavors of bouillabaisse and a spicy Korean noodle soup. It’s a soul-warming dish that’s simultaneously familiar and brand new. 2500 W. 8th St., Ste. 103, Westlake.
With this popular pop-up, launched last May, Rustic Canyon alum Jihee Kim is focused on redefining banchan through a California lens. That means farmers’ market ingredients prepared with diverse techniques. A fermented cabbage dish ($4.25) features herbaceous perilla leaves layered delicately between the larger cabbage leaves. Broccolini ($5) is blanched and served with bits of broken tofu. Kim’s daikon kimchi ($5) is superb, and the ever-changing menu has also included banchan with pickled shishito peppers, braised yams, and marinated kombu. Everything is quite wonderful, especially when paired with some seasoned rice ($3). 1391 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park.
For years, Korean American brothers Yong and Ted Kim have been known for exuberantly merging Korean barbecue with the flavors of Los Angeles, but, sadly, they had to close their brick-and-mortar spots in Little Tokyo and Sawtelle. Their latest endeavor—a Norwalk ghost kitchen launched in January—serves up dishes like kalbi poutine fries ($14.50) topped with pepper jack cheese, pickled onions, and avocado-lime crema; kimchi fried rice balls ($9.99); and huge family meals ($60) with chicken, pork, or vegetarian sausages. They’ve also launched a sweet-and-spicy poultry side project, Ghost Chicken, out of the same Norwalk facility. 14528 Carmenita Road, Norwalk.
Chef Kwang Uh was known for his avant-garde Korean cooking at Baroo, but he’s turned his attention to childhood memories and homestyle food at this new Grand Central Market stand. Uh and Baroo co-owner Mina Park serve straightforwardly pleasing dosiraks (multi-item lunch boxes) with selections like kalbi, kimchi-braised pork belly, or fried mushrooms. Shiku’s banchan includes plenty of pickled vegetables as well as a rotating selection of crowd-pleasers like stir-fried dried squid. For Uh and Park, it’s nostalgia-laced comfort food, but the dishes are also beautiful calibrations of contrasting tastes and textures. 317 S. Broadway, downtown.