When people enthuse about something they ate, it’s always a good idea to pay attention. For example, two weeks ago I was at Park’s BBQ in Koreatown with our friends Jim and Jess, and also our friends Jimmy and Raef, and as we were fighting over grilled pieces of rib-eye and skirt steak, Jim mentioned this amazing dessert he and Jess once ate nearby at a place called Mr. Boba. “It’s seriously like the best thing I’ve ever eaten,” he said and before I could yell “Hyperbole!” Jess echoed the sentiment. Which led me to say, “Then why don’t we go there after this?” And everyone nodded their heads in approval.
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.
Mad at myself, I flung open–as much as you can virtually fling something open–Jonathan Gold’s epic article “60 Korean Dishes Every Angeleno Should Know” and said to myself, “You big jerk! You’ve been in L.A. almost a year and you’ve barely scratched the surface of Koreatown. You’ve never eaten any of this food. Eat some of it right now!”
My eyes settled on something called “Shaken Dosirak” and I decided I would go eat that thing, whatever it was, this very instant.
The biggest challenge was finding the place. The address was 3317 W. 6th Street and we were meeting our friends Kyle and Gary there at 7:30. We drove down 6th, using my phone as a guide, and didn’t see 3317. We parked on the street and saw a sign for a hotel featuring Korean dramas on the TV, but no 3317. Then, entering a shopping center, we saw a valet parking attendant and asked him if he knew where we could find Dan Sung Sa. He pointed at the building right in front of him: there it was, in Korean, no English translation.
According to Jonathan Gold, when the mayor of Oaxaca comes to Los Angeles, he eats at Guelaguetza. It’s listed on Gold’s 99 Essential L.A. Restaurants 2011 and in his original review he calls it “one of the best Oaxacan restaurants in the country.” Clearly, then, I knew I had to go there; and I knew I had to go especially for the mole negro which Gold describes as “black as midnight, black as tar, black as Dick Cheney’s heart.”