Monday, 19 November 2012

Places To Eat In Los Angeles: Soot Bull Jeep, Koreatown

One of the brilliant things about Los Angeles, is that there are so many different cultures and nationalities squashed into one amazing city, so you really can experience something new every single day. I would not really recommend Koreatown as a prime tourist destination, because there is only one (but pretty important) thing to do there: eat. This in mind, a couple of us headed out with empty stomachs (most of us were pretty hungry, which you'll see was a good thing later!) for our first ever experience of authentic Korean Barbecue. 
Now, Soot Bull Jeep does not look like a prime gourmet food destination from the outside, and I'm pretty sure under most circumstances, from the outside I would have never considered eating there. We got off the bus, and thought we'd wonder around until we found somewhere, but Sarah remembered she'd the name Soot Bull Jeep from the top of a food guide, so we mapped it into our iPhones and headed over. 
While you are pondering the menu of meats, soups and noodle sides, the traditional side dishes for you to eat with your barbecue arrive. My favourite of all of these has to be this dressed salad; it was mouthwatering by itself, but a perfect compliment to the meat. I will be spending a lot of time on Google to work out how to reproduce it, as I think it will make the perfect light supper in a bowl with some sliced grilled steak on top (Yes Mummy who is reading this as ever, America has turned your daughter into a steak eater!)
Your meat arrives at the table raw, and cooks in the middle of your table. Each table has a fire pit in the middle, which has a griddle placed over the top. I snapped this picture while the woman helping us with the cooking changed the griddle after our short rib and steak, and before we sampled our final meat; the chicken. 
I did not try all of the sides (I got too busy eating and forgot!) but here we have from the bottom clockwise, white onion marinated so it was sweet rather than sharp, raw garlic cloves (I'll explain in a minute), a paste I did not try, a slightly fishy, slightly meaty dipping sauce, a green leaf I did not try, marinated artichoke (or that is what we thought it was, I have now been informed by a reliable source that it is Kimchi, which is a type of fermented cabbage) and more of the sweet onion in whatever the artichoke was in. 
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The idea in the restaurant we thought, by looking around at all the Korean-American couples and families eating there is that the raw food arrived at your table and you cooked it yourself. However, though we did keep an eye on it to make sure it did not burn, I think the woman in the restaurant saw us, realised that none of us were remotely Asian, may not have had Korean Barbecue before and took pity on us, and came over whenever our meat needed turning, and served a lot of it out to us too!
The meat was mouthwatering, and the salads were amazing, but nothing beats the combination of them together. This was a piece of the short rib, the first meat we tried, and I think if I could only eat one meat for the rest of my life it would have to be this one. It was so tender, so mouthwatering and one of the best things I have eaten in a very long time. We had chicken last, which was nice but I don't think I would order again if I went back there, but in the middle we had the steak which was also stupidly delicious. We had 5 lots of meat between the 5 of us, and we struggled, starting from a point of very great hunger, so I would say if you're hungry, order one less dish than how many of you there are, if you had a big breakfast, half.
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So, the pieces of raw garlic  Only a crazy person, or someone who was very, very terrified of getting attacked by a vampire would eat a clove or raw garlic  so we were rather unsure of why we were given bowls of the stuff, but then a Korean woman dining at the next table leaned over and explained to us how you were supposed to eat the salads in mouthfuls with the meat (there were also big leaves we used to make wraps), but more importantly that the garlic cloves were meant to be put on the barbecue to go sweet and soft.
I was still full later that night, but my first experience of Korean Barbecue was one of the very best meals I've had in a very, very long time, and when friends visit Los Angeles this will be a restaurant I'll try to take them to; there is nothing else to do in the area, but they have a car park and you can get there by bus, so if you're planning a trip to Los Angeles, or you live in the LA area Soot Bull Jeep (it is at 3136 West 8th Street) is well worth a lunchtime visit.

Have any of you tried Korean Barbecue before? Also, do any of my LA readers know any great unsung restaurants from different world cuisines you think I should make the effort to go and try out? 


  1. Kacie - ladybear.me19 November 2012 at 07:37

    Haha, they should have explained to you early on what to do with the garlic :)

  2. this looks so yummy! i wish we had more choices near my small, almost all white college town. my mouth is watering at the pictures!

    some other world cuisines that you should try but i don't know if they are in LA: Ethiopian food for sure, authentic mexican food are the first things that come to mind...

  3. I do need to find a good, authentic Mexican! Ethiopian sounds interesting - I'll have to Google for one - thanks!

  4. I love Korean food, that place looks amazing! Hope you're having an amazing time in L.A.

  5. This looks amazing, |I love roasted or barbequed garlic, it is gorgeous!

    Maria xxx

  6. Hi! i'm not korean, but have eaten korean bbq many times (kal-be is my fav)...i prefer the beef as opposed to the chicken,as well...the sides are called kimchi...they can be either sweet or quite spicey...from your pic (going the same direction as your description), you have sweet thinly cut pickled gourds, the green veggie is chinese broccoli, next is fermented nappa cabbage (spicey), the one next to it is also nappa cabbage, and the last one looks like fermented thinly sliced gourds (spicey)...i'm not sure what the paste is though...not every restaurant serves the same kimchi...many of them usually serve the spicey fermented nappa's an acquired 1st i didn't care for it but now i can't imagine kal-be w/ out it ;o)

  7. This looks so good! If I can find a good palce in the UK tha does it I definitely want to try this out!

  8. Thanks for sharing! This place looks amazing... I can't wait to get back to L.A. after T-giving to try it! xx

  9. This restaurant looks great, now I just need to travel to LA ;-) But well, I don't know if a trip to california will be possible next year, but I'll write all your wonderful tips and suggestions down in my little travel notebook!

    xxx Anita

  10. Oh my gosh, Rachel - that looks so divine! Beautiful photos as usual, I'm real hungry now!


  11. Wow that food looks absolutely delicious, I am so jealous. I live at the chalfonte apartments not far from there so I will need to try it. Thanks for the heads up. I've never been before so I have nothing to compare it to other than looking great!

  12. I know this experience is a few years old.... It does not matter... The photographs taken totally define the experience.... Especially the one where the meat is sizzling close up....