What to do when Officer EstÛmago Grumblelito comes knockin’ on your door with a warrant for your arrest for the crime of negligence of your hunger pangs, and all you have is a Alexander Hamilton to post bail? Most Angelenos think of late night greasy spoon diners or fast food joints after the clock ticks past 11pm on weeknights, serving the same fries, burgers and pies found throughout the city. So what is one to do when the blue plate special ain’t cutting it? Just a hop, skip and a jump from most anywhere in Los Angeles is a multitude of korean restaurants, almost all planted within tightly packed minimalls along Vermont, Western and Olympic in Koreatown. Quite a few open to the wee hours of the night, offering the night owl gourmand a place to take roost for an hour or two and take care of the stomach rumblings. In the late night hours, kids are coming back from noraebang (karaoke bars) or big clubbing venues strewn throught the amorphous confines of Koreatown, and are often looking to satiate their hunger on the cheap. Korean food is as downright comfort food as asian food can get, and places like Hodori offer late night patrons an assortment of popular and decently executed home-style korean dishes for prices comparable to Denny’s. Two could share a heaping sizzling plate of korean bbq beef with onions (bulgogi) with rice and the accompanying panchan (think korean tapas) for about $6 per/person. A personal favourite is dolsot bibimbap, literally “mixed up rice”, a sizable serving of rice topped with an assortment of vegetables, roots, mushrooms, meats and a cracked egg on top. Its all served in a scorching hot cast iron bowl (I know, cuz I burned my finger accidentally touching one tonite) that crisps the rice and cooks the egg. You mix it all up with a dollop of hot red bean paste (for those who fancy themselves down with the caliente), and eat yourself silly full, until the near end when you reach a layer of crisped cooked rice which is meant to be scraped off after soaking with added cold water. Yes, some of this sorta dining can be a bit culturally insider in nature. But don’t worry, any dining mistakes are more likely to be greeted with grins than disapproving glances from the waitstaff, and they will make efforts to point your way to becoming a hardened veteran in K-Town dining. Other newbie friendly menu choices include dduk bokee, a slightly spiced cylindrical rice cake that is a favourite amongst children for its soft-chewy texture. Bite-sized mandoo are steamed dumplings that taste delicious with a dip of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. And if you’re feeling a bit chilly, give a bubbling pot of soon tofu(tofu hotpot) or yook gae jiang(korean spicy beef soup with noodles) a gander. More adventurous diners can taste the spicy korean version of calamari and realize tentacles can taste delicious even when not fried. Just be sure to have some Altoids ready afterwards….korean food stays with you, literally, for hours afterwards.
Hodori 1001 S. Vermont Ave, just south of Olympic Blvd. 213.383.3554