Sunday, September 11, 2011

LaOn: Small Plates in KTown

LaOn Dining
1145 S. Western Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90006


My friend C is an incredibly adventurous diner. In the sense that she always wants to try what's new and novel, not in the sense that she'll eat anything. As a matter of fact, she won't eat almost anything, she's very specific about what she'll eat. C chose LaOn for us because it's new and supposedly has a pescetarian-friendly Korean BBQ-esque menu. I am going to say that LaOn is pescetarian-possible rather than friendly. Several dishes on the menu looked like they would be meat free but weren't. However, since I am decidedly a meat and fish and vegetable and fruit eating omnivore, I was in a pretty happy place. I can eat whatever the eff I want to. And I did, and I liked it. I don't think C went home hungry either.


LaOn is sleekly trendy, nothing over the top, fairly simple actually. Attached to co-owned Don Dae Gam Pork restaurant with the saucy pink pig on the sign looking down on dark Western Ave, they share a valet and a bathroom.


LaOn: emotion of great delight or happiness; exceptionally satisfying.


I was a little disappointed in the cold sake list. LaOn sells Nigori unflitered for ten bones a small bottle then immediately jumps up to $55 for Kubota Senju and from there on up. Not that Kubota Senju isn't worth the money. It's a wonderful sake. But I would have liked seeing something in between the $10 and $55 price points. I like unfiltered sakes like Nigori, indeed I went through a whole unfiltered sake phase. But nowadays I am not always in the mood. Some other options would be nice. That's all.


Simplicity in the banchan: spicy pickles and a tomatoey kimchee, both totally delicious.


Above, Salted Fingerlings. Small skin-on salted baby potatoes with a verde sauce that tasted mostly of cilantro. Yum. 


It's really hard to see what this is from the above snap. It was chilled cucumbers kind of folded over topped with beef, two kinds of mushrooms, enoki and shiitake, and a little egg. Supposedly delicious, all tasting parties reported. And now that I think about it, everyone but me tasted it which means they all ate a little meat. :-/


The above sea bass dish was wonderful. Grilled in a dark sweet/savory sauce with chestnuts, gingko, dates and an asparagus spear.


LaOn is technically a small plates/Korean tapas place, however they do have giant vents over each table and if you order from the Hwa Ro part of the menu, they bring out a miniature grill to the table.


Shrimp, squid, enoki mushrooms, marinated boneless short rib and unmarinated skirt steak there to the bottom left.


Scallop skewers with BBQ sauce. Does anyone ever actually spell out the word barbecue anymore?


Spicy pork wrapped asparagus. This was a beautiful little taste. I would have preferred to have a few more vegetable options on the menu without meat but this was a stand out taste of the evening. I'll take my veggies wrapped in meat if I have to. Meat good.


Actually, this dish might have been the highlight of the night. There are three that really struck a chord, the sea bass, the pork wrapped asparagus and the above. Our server suggested this. 


Sizzling stone hot pot with crackling rice and five kinds of fish egg. I would return just for this.


This is a sneaky little item. I had already ordered enough meat for D and I. With Korean food twice in one week, we have been on a beef tangent. This sounded vegetarian, but had sneaky bits and pieces of meat smuggled into its Korean yummy-ness. Japchae. Stir fried vegetables with clear glass rice noodles. Really delicious sounding and tasting but there was beef in it, the pieces were tiny, but still.


The chef sent out dessert to our table. Totally weird but completely good.  To the left was mochi. One little chocolate mochi ball and behind it is a flat piece of mochi that had some caramelized sugar on the outside. Wow! And a small scoop of vanilla ice cream on the right.  The creaminess of the ice cream balanced the caramelized mochi beautifully. Thank you, chef!

I have been on the hunt in the last few weeks for a fun restaurant with a private dining room. LaOn has such a space, a long table for about 14 people with three ventilation units above all wrapped in a black plexiglass wall of semi-privacy. While it is too small for my needs, I highly rec this for a dinner party. It's fun and interactive, like all Korean BBQ places. I adore the engaging nature of playing with one's food. And LaOn is a little more sleek than most BBQ places in the neighborhood. It's not filled with families and kids running between tables (which I don't mind at all in the right time and place). It feels youthful and fresh without being overly trendy.


cloudyjames said...

Your eye and talent behind the lens grabbed me by the balls this morning but your writing skills "I adore" and inspire me to read. I've been reading Food She Thought and trolling around your ventures for the past hour!
Now, I must fetch some tea. Maegan said...

seriously gorgeous photos!

Food, she thought. said...'s always an inspiration to eat with you.

Thanks, Maegan! *muah*