233 S. Vermont Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90020
Friday night making dinner plans with my husband, his brother and my sister-in-law, I was in the mood for something adventurous and interactive. It just so happened whilst making these plans I was heading eastward on Pico right through my old K-town stomping grounds. Korean BBQ. Hadn't done that in awhile I thought to myself. I consulted my Asian food guru Tony C of Sinosoul. Tony has literally never steered me wrong, and there have been PLENTY of consultations. I owe this guy lunch. Anyway, Soot Bul Gui Rim was not his rec. His recs either didn't take reservations or were already booked, so we ended up here and I'm glad we did. It was fun and pretty damn good.
D and I started off with some soju, Yipsejoo. Yipsejoo is not on this blogger's top five list and I love how one Chowhounder refers to soju in general as "ghetto alcohol". I've had soju more than a few times and ultimately prefer sake. But Yipsejoo was fairly dry and preferable to the Jinro Fresh I tasted later at Cafe Bleu down the road.
Dipping sauce for the meats and the start of the banchan, an egg pancake with scallions and a little kimchee. One of the reasons I chose Soot Bul Gui Rim was the price point. All you can eat BBQ for $17.50 a head. I've eaten at a few hole-in-the-wall Korean BBQ when I lived at 5th and Catalina. However, the most memorable Korean BBQ experiences I have had to date were at Chosan Galbee and Woo Lae Oak (back when WLO were still open in K-town). Both places have good food with significantly different approaches to banchan and with similarly high price points. It's all about picking and choosing when to spend big bucks dining these days, and we happily walked out of Soot Bul Gui Rim stuffed to the gils, entertained and only out about $25 a head including drinks.
I wasn't overly impressed with the banchan here. Banchan are the little shared dishes served at the table during a Korean meal. Every restaurant I have been to does them a little differently. Here, there wasn't a large choice and a couple of them were just meh in terms of excitement level. Both kimchee dishes were good, but not as spicy as some I have had. Above is kimchee pickles, very tasty. D loves anything pickled.
Above is the generally more recognized cabbage kimchee. This was really good. I wondered if they made it themselves and thought of asking but our server was super busy barely swinging by the table to drop off plates and light the fire under the BBQ. There was also a pureed potato salad dish that reminded the boys of San Fernando Valley circa 1978 and sauteed sprouts with a little sesame oil that I hogged all to myself. I'm a bitch like that.
The spread. Everything looked, smelled and tasted really fresh. The restaurant was busy and stayed that way the entire time we were there, something you look for when dining AYCE. Turn over in ingredients ensures that the stuff is fresh.
Blurry picture of marinated short ribs courtesy of iPhone and laziness. These were delicious! Probably my favorite of the evening, not as fatty as short ribs can sometimes be. Succulent and easy to chew.
Tissue thin beef, not marinated. We grilled these quickly and I dipped my medium-rare slices in my sweet soy mixture.
Chicken on the left and marinated squid on the right. The marinade on the squid was sweet and savory but no one else even touched it except me. The tentacles were far easier to manage eating-wise then the squid steaks because the steak part was just huge and unruly.
All up on my grill!
Mid-way through the meal our server dropped off this sizzling little bowl of scrambled eggs with scallions. Scrambled eggs with scallions. Nothing more. I don't think. Was I missing something here?
The atmosphere is nothing to write home about at Soot Bul Gui Rim, probably not for a special occasion or even a first date. But it was spotlessly clean, the crowd was mixed and friendly, the food tasted good and didn't leave our wallets light. I'd hit that again.