As I’ve said in reports from previous trips, we don’t really plan Korean meals in L.A. We’re based in Koreatown when there and when the missus’ extended family decides to get together to go out to eat it’s usually to a Korean place, and always one of their choice. This lunch was actually supposed to be dim sum at Sea Harbour. I’d been trying to get a group >8 together so we could make a reservation and it backfired on me. We ended up being a group of 10 but mostly elders and they rebelled and said, why go to the San Gabriel Valley to eat Chinese food when we can go eat galbi-tang right here in Koreatown? If I’ve learned anything in 48 years, I’ve learned to not argue with large numbers of your partner’s older relatives with whom you don’t have a language in common. And so it was that we ended up at Oo-Kook.
Oo-Kook—which roughly translates as “cow country”—is actually an “all you can eat” Korean bbq place—and it’s a chain with locations in the San Gabriel Valley as well (so we could potentially have driven there to eat galbi-tang too). But we were not there for bbq and I cannot give you any sense of what their bbq is like. (In Koreatown the fact that a bbq place is AYCE doesn’t necessarily mean it’s dodgy.) Almost everybody in the group got galbi-tang; our boys shared one and I knew they wouldn’t finish it and so I got a bibim-bap with baby octopus and polished off their galbi-tang at the end.
The standard galbi-tang is old Korean person and young Indo-Korean person-approved and we quite liked it too. It’s not the best galbi-tang in Koreatown, but that’s also because no such thing exists. My bibim-bap was very good. The missus got the spicy galbi-tang and I think she regretted the choice a bit—the spice took away more than it brought to the table. The banchan was standard issue and pretty decent (I particularly liked their radish kimchi).
For pictures of the restaurant and the food launch the slideshow below. Scroll down for thoughts on service and value and to find out what’s coming next from my remaining Los Angeles food reports from this trip.
Oh yes, the restaurant is attractive enough (we were at the location on 8th St.). It has two levels, I think: we were on the ground floor and I don’t know what the other looks like. It’s also busy: we had to wait about 20 minutes for a table. It’s true we were a large group but there were plenty of smaller groups waiting as we left (this was at lunch on a Saturday).
While I wasn’t able to head off the older people’s hijacking of the lunch plan, I was able to outmaneuver them for the check and so I can tell you that all of this came to $160 with tax and tip or about $18/head (counting our boys as one eater). Not bad at all for the quality and quantity (portions are large), and I’d kill to be able to pay that much for galbi-tang or bibim-bap of that quality in the Twin Cities metro. It’s cheaper at weekday lunch (and I think the AYCE bbq is in the region of $25/head). Should you go eat there? Well, if visiting L.A I’d say there’s better and more interesting Korean to be had. If I lived there on the other hand—and as close to it as my mother-in-law does—I’d be happy to stop by for a quick meal any time.
Coming up next from L.A.: a Chinese lunch on Christmas.
Interesting. I’ve seen the place a few times but haven’t gotten around to visiting. I’m certainly on a Korean food hunt, wanting to try different Korean dishes at least once. I might just go for the individual portions rather than the AYCE, however.