Park’s BBQ, Neptune’s Net & Marouch

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As I gear up to go to New York for three months, I’m starting to check things off my L.A. “first year” bucket list. Korean BBQ was pretty high up there, and in my browser where I have a folder called LaFood and subfolders like “Chinese,” “Ramen,” “Sushi,” “Thai,” there’s a folder that says “Korean” and Park’s BBQ is featured prominently in there. So this past Saturday, I gathered up a group, including our new L.A. transplant friends Jim and Jess and we headed to Park’s in Koreatown.

The place was bustling but luckily, the day before, I made a reservation on their website…which was more like filling out an application. A manager had to approve it before your reservation was accepted. Thankfully, ours was and we were seated right away.

Here’s a view of the restaurant:

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Right away we were presented with banchan, the small dishes that are almost always included with Korean BBQ.

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I can’t tell you much about what all of that is, but the stuff that looks like pineapple was really a bowl of pickled turnips…which I really liked.

Now if you search the archives of my blog you may be startled to find that I’ve never blogged about Korean BBQ before. That’s because I’ve only had it one other time in my life and that was with my friend Patty when I was writing my first book.

Park’s showed me how much I’d been missing! If you love meat, is there anything more wonderful than all kinds of marinated beef thrown on to a hot grill right in front of you, slowly going from pink to brown to dark golden brown?

The waitress came by to slice our meat into manageable pieces…which also helped them caramelize* further. (*This actually isn’t caramelization, it’s the Maillard reaction, but let’s not be prissy about all that, ok?)

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When we finished that round–Gal-Bi, prime beef short rib on the bone–the waitress threw large mushrooms on the grill.

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Then the next batch of meat came…Bulgogi (seasoned sliced beef).

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Look at it several minutes later, so dark and crispy and flavorful.

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You dunk it in a sweet brown sauce and it’s really wonderful how flavorful it all is. Plus: there’s a bit of a show as the waitress swaps out your cooking surface for a cleaner one.

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For our third meat–after the short rib and Bulgogi–we ordered the “Special Pork Belly.”

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That, it turns out, was a very good idea. Think bacon, but sweeter and meatier.

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What makes Korean BBQ so fun is that your food changes while you sit. So those pieces of pork belly that remain on the grill while you eat your first piece get darker and darker until you start to wonder if they’re going to burn. That’s when they taste best, actually.

Plus, it’s a great group activity. Look how much fun everyone’s having!

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Yes: we were drinking red wine which was incredibly reasonable per bottle.

At dinner, Jim and Jess confessed that they’re pinball junkies. So we had them take us to a bowling alley nearby where we all played some pinball. Jess racked up 18 million points on Pirates of the Caribbean.

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I loved seeing these vintage soda and coffee machines.

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Jim was brave enough to order hot chocolate from the latter…

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Let’s take a look…

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Tasted pretty OK, actually, like the Swiss Miss my mom used to make with water. So good job bowling alley coffee / hot chocolate machine!

The next day, Craig and I decided to cross another item off our L.A. bucket list—going to the beach.

Our friend Brendan turned us on to a secret beach, north of Malibu, called Matador. This is a great thing to know about if you’re into secret California beaches.

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I mean, check out the scenery…

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(Don’t you love that woman doing yoga on the left?)

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Sorry east coast, but the west coast has your beaches beat.

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We sat and read our books and magazines and went in the water a little (it’s cold) and eventually it was 5:30 and time to go. I remembered making note of a fish shack in Malibu that I read about in Craig’s mom’s Sunset magazine… the place was called Neptune’s Net. I put it into my phone and turns out it was only 5 more miles north.

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I have to get this out of the way first because it’s important to know if you’re going to Neptune’s Net: don’t go there if you have to go to the bathroom. Because they don’t really have one…they just have a bunch of port-o-potties out back. And that’s all I’m going to say about that, but it can certainly dampen your enthusiasm for the place.

Which is a shame because, otherwise, it’s really charming. You can see the ocean from the deck.

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And while I think you should skip the clam chowder (which almost tasted like it came from a can)…

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…Craig’s fish and chips were absolutely stellar. I knew right away just looking at it that the fish was perfectly cooked…and it was. Crispy breading, tender fish inside.

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My fish tacos were pretty good too.

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So that’s Neptune’s Net.

Finally, on my own last week, I checked out a place called Marouch which isn’t too far from where I live.

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I went for lunch on a weekday and the place couldn’t have been emptier. The waiter, at first, was gruff but by the end he warmed up to me.

The first thing that came out was this mysterious plate of pickled beets, pickled peppers, olives, a mint sprig and, to my confusion, a large green onion.

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I understood what to do with everything except the green onion. Do you just eat it?

Hot pita came out way before my entree…

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…which was disappointing because by the time the entree came, the pita was cold.

But I really enjoyed my vegetarian platter of hummus, falafel, baba ghanoush, tabbouli, and a stuffed grape leaf.

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It reminded me of the lunch I miss the most from New York, the hummus tahini at Hummus Place. Which I’ll be eating again in a matter of weeks!

There’s so much more I have to conquer here in L.A. before going back to New York… more Chinese, more Thai, more Korean; restaurants like Red Medicine and Jar; bars, bakeries, taco trucks… it’s overwhelming. But, on the flip side, it’s a lot to look forward to when I get back here in December.

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6 comments

  1. Park’s showed me how much I’d been missing! If you love meat, is there anything more wonderful than all kinds of marinated beef thrown on to a hot grill right in front of you, slowly going from pink to brown to dark golden brown?

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