The Friday before Superbowl, Dan and I, along with M went to lunch at Gyenari. This was our 2nd visit back and we were seated at the same booth as last time.
They’ve done some redecorating since then, turning the tables in the center of the room into booths. They were also putting up plasma TVs in their bar/lounge area at the front of the restaurant. A flyer on the table advertising a Superbowl event explained why.
The kinks in service seemed to have been smoothed out and we had an excellent and attentive waitress. We never had to ask for refills on water.
I was surprised by how empty the restaurant was when we arrived but soon the lunch crowd hit and it was no longer so lonely. I guess they go to lunch later in Culver City.
The food is still excellent and the prices are still the same. I think they may have added a few items to their menu and it looks less strictly Asian and more fusion-y.
One of the new items I noticed was an appetizer dish, Jeon Jeon, which is sort of like a savory Korean pancake. There were two options – applewood-smoked bacon and cheddar or shrimp, calamari and kimchee. Intrigued, I had to try the bacon n’ cheese. What came out was a plate of a quartered Jeon Jeon and a side of ranch dressing. (I forgot to grab a pix before 2 pieces were consumed). The chef was quite generous with the cheese and the portion of bacon sprinkled around was decent. The edges of the Jeon Jeon were crispy while the inside was nicely soft. It wasn’t overly greasy which was a nice surprise given how much cheese was on it. It was a great dish and one I would definitely have again.
Along with the “banchan”, came bowls of delicious ox tail broth with slivers of daikon in it. The side dishes consisted of spicy pickled shredded daikon, steamed broccoli, cucumber (“oi”) kimchee, bean sprouts, a potato-egg salad and, of course, kimchee. Nothing uncommon or out of the ordinary and what you would find if you went to a regular Korean restaurant.
Like last time, Dan went with the lunch plate but opted for the braised beef – a chunk of beef that’s been braised in a soy sauce mixture. It was tender, flaky and full of flavor. I opted for a lunch plate as well, going with the Spicy Pork Bulgogi. Like before, rice, salad, japchae, fruit and tempura accompanied the meat. I like how Gyenari uses mixed greens instead of plain iceberg lettuce. The tempura is light and not greasy and they include a green bean, asparagus, sweet potato slice and shrimp. The spicy pork bulgogi had quite a bit of heat to it, surprisingly. Between 2 slices of the Jeon Jeon and half my main course, I was pretty stuffed and required a to-go box. The leftover meat, tempura and japchae heated up quite nicely for dinner, by the way.
M opted to try the “Gyenari Bibimbap” which ended up being Dolsot Bibimbap – bibimbap in a hot stone pot. For those not familiar with “bibimbap”, it is rice with various vegetables, beef and an egg. You add in a flavorful, sometimes spicy, red paste and mix everything together.
Gyenari’s version of toppings consisted of beef, cooked spinach, shitake mushroms, cucumbers, carrots and a sunny-side egg. The bibimbap sauce proved to be too spicy for M so he did without. He liked it quite a bit.
I only get Dolsot Bibimbop from one place, a Korean restaurant down in San Diego. I’m going to have to give Gyenari’s a try one day to see how it compares.
The Catty critic gives Gyenari an upgrade to 4 NOMs.
9450 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232