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.
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.
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?