Gwang Yang Korean BBQ recently opened in Koreatown and is looking to take on the likes of Park BBQ for the title of Best Korean BBQ.
With several locations in Korea, this is the first in the U.S. and soon to be many more. So what makes Gwang Yang different? The restaurant boasts its use of only prime cuts of meat, traditional family recipes, freshly prepared dishes, chefs with over 25 years of experience and VIP rooms to set itself apart from its competitors.
So how does it compare? Only one way to find out. I was recently invited to sample their menu and brought along my husband and our good friend who has eaten his way through Koreatown and Korea. One of the first things I noticed about the restaurant was the ambiance and smokeless dining room. The decor and open layout added a touch of elegance to the restaurant. We were seated inside one of the 6 VIP rooms, which could easily seat 8 to 10 people each.
We started off with barley tea followed by what seemed to be an endless stream of banchan - Korean side dishes. Each dish was prepared by the restaurant and can change depending on the season and when the chefs want to switch things up. The freshness of the ingredients and the balance of flavors were apparent in each bite. Some favorites were the dried calamari, pancake, and salad with black sesame dressing.
Then we embarked on our six courses of beef. When the beef pancakes arrived, I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful platting. Having never tasted the dish before, I was eager to try it. The suggested way to eat it was to add a little scallion salad to each pancake and roll it up. I found the pancake to be enjoyable on its own without the scallions.
This was another Korean dish I had never tried before. Chilled prime beef served with pear in a chili and sesame sauce. The tender beef mixed with the crunchy pear and balance of sweet and savory made this one of my favorite dishes. The one thing that would have made this perfect was not serving it as cold. This was a great introduction to Korean style beef tartare and I can't wait to go back and have it again.
Black oak charcoal from Mt. Baegunsan
Next, we moved onto grilled meat. First, I have to point out the grills used at the restaurant. It sits much lower than most grills because the vent sucks out the smoke as it rises and before it gets to table level. This worked extremely well and explains why the restaurant wasn't smoky when we walked in. They also only uses black oak charcoal from Mt. Baegunsan. Would be interesting to do a side by side taste test with another charcoal to see if there is a noticeable difference in flavor.
Our meal continued with four types of grilled meat. The first set was the bulgogi - traditional marinaded ribeye followed by L.A. "Gangnam" style. The quality of the meat was apparent the minute it was brought to the table and our waiter explained that this type of meat should be grilled close together to keep it tender. Luckily, the restaurant cooks the meat tableside so we didn't have to worry about doing it incorrectly and overcooking the meat.
The traditional style was lightly marinaded whereas the L.A. style had bolder flavors and sweeter. Both were very tender and juicy. I prefer the traditional style as it puts the focus on the flavor of the beef.
Then we moved on to two types of galbi - regular beef short rib and marinaded beef short rib. The regular short rib had no seasoning on it whereas the marinaded short rib was bathed in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame seed and fruit juice. Again, the quality of the meat was the star and everything was cooked just right. Needless to say, we were all in grilled meat heaven.
After six courses of beef, we each enjoyed a bowl of Korean noodle, a favorite dish of mine to end a meal on.
Green plum juice
Just when we thought we were finished, this little cup of house made green plum juice arrived. Considered a digestive, this perfectly sweet and tart juice was served chilled and really rounded out the meal.
Having eaten at many BBQ spots in Koreatown, including Park BBQ, I can easily see Gwang Yang becoming a favorite. The prices are on the higher side, but you get prime cuts of meat, ambiance (including less smoke) and friendly/knowledge table service. I'm already planning my next visit to Gwang Yang for another round of delicious Korean BBQ.
Tip: Metered parking avialable on the street, $2 valet below the restaurant. If you use Mariposa entrance to the parking garage on the weekend, parking is free.
Gwang Yang Korean BBQ
3435 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 123
Los Angeles, CA 90010