Kyochon Chicken

Kirk over at mmm-yoso blogged about chicken wings recently and mentioned Kyochon.  I realized I still hadn’t blogged about my experience with this place yet.

KyoChon

While exploring the new Zion Korean market off Beach Blvd (still labeled Fresia when I went)  in Garden Grove, I saw this place inside near the entrance.  Since I didn’t feel like cooking, I decided to give Kyochon a try.

All Kyochon does is chicken.  You can get chicken wings, chicken bentos, chicken chicken chicken.  I guess it’s sort of like a Korean Chik-fil-et but not sandwiches…okay, I’m stretching here with that comparison but you get the idea…

Anyways, the smell wafting from the kitchen was making my tummy grumble.  Looking at the menu, they offered up chicken with two different sauces – soy-garlic and spicy.  The option to place orders for half/half is available but you have to order at least 4 wings, if memory serves me correctly.  The prices were a little high, I thought till I saw I could get a “whole chicken” for ~$20 (tax included).  Now, I was thinking a whole chicken would be quite a lot of food and $20 wasn’t too steep for that.  I opted on half/half for the sauces since I  planned on sharing with my husband who doesn’t do spicy.

Packaging

When my number was called, I received these two boxes in a rather nice bag, the sort of bag you get when you shop at Banana Republic or Coach.  These boxes seemed a little small to each contain half a chicken, but they were crammed to the top with pieces of hacked poultry and taped shut so I guess it adds up.

I had to wait till I got home to munch on it.  While I was driving, I could smell the garlic coming from the soy-garlic sauce and let me tell you, it was pretty cruel since I was starving.

Soy-garlic chicken

Spicy chicken

Because they had been packaged hot, the steam made the skin on these a little soggy, though there was some crispness here and there.  Made me think that next time, I would have to eat some right when I got my order.  The meat was nice and moist and the flavor, intense.  The spicy really packed a punch for me.  Either the chef had it out or my tolerance is diminishing…  Looking inside, there really was quite a bit of food, enough that I had leftovers for dinner for the following two days after gorging myself on quite a bit that night (the Husband decided to forgo trying any for some insane reason).  They did reheat well, though they did start drying out.

While the chicken was really good, doing the math in my head, it was a bit pricey.  Still, I don’t think it’s enough of a deterrant for me to not eat at Kyochon.  I’d just do so only when I have a craving for them specifically. Maybe next time, I will try some of their more affordable bentos…

I give Kyochon 3 1/2 NOMs.  It would have gotten 4 if it was cheap eats!

Kyochon Chicken
12840 Beach Boulevard
Stanton, CA‎
(714) 891-2449
Kyochon Chicken on Urbanspoon

New Seoul BBQ

New Seoul BBQ

Over the Christmas break, the Husband and I met up with my parents for lunch in Orange County.  The last few times we’ve done this, we’ve gone to New Seoul BBQ, an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ Buffet.  The reason…meat-fest!

Unlike Manna, the place we frequent up in LA, New Seoul is a self-serve buffet.  This is more convenient since there is no time wasted trying to flag down a waiter and put in an order for meat.  Also, New Seoul has a wider variety of choices than Manna’s all-you-can-eat menu.  I think the meat is better quality as well.  It is more expensive, though.  Since my parents always paid, I never got a look at the check but I’m guessing $20ish/pp for weekend lunch.

New Seoul BBQ - banchan

When you walk in, you’re greeted by a long bar.  On one side, various banchan and a salad bar await your consumption.  Different kinds of kimchi, spinach, bean sprouts, tofu are just some of the choices.  Overall, the banchan is of decent quality.  They have a lot of the things I like to eat, including pickled shredded daikon and almond jelly.

The other side offers up various marinated meats and seafood.  The usual suspects – bulgogi, kalbi, chicken and pork bulgogi – are present but so are pork belly, tripe, beef tongue, baby octopus, mussels, and whole shrimp.

There’s also stations offering up hot items like udon, fried rice, japchae, egg rolls, fried mandoo, steamed egg.  The japchae is average though the noodles are sometimes overcooked, maybe from sitting under the heatlamp for too long.  The steamed egg is not that great.  They also have a couple of types of nigiri sushi but I usually pass as the one time I tried it, the fish didn’t taste fresh; it had a strong fish taste.  For dessert, there’s fruit, jello and a yogurt machine as well as a persimmon-rice drink.

New Seoul BBQ - Various meats on the table grill

Whenever we’ve gone, the service has been good.  We seem to always get the same table everytime.  The booths are big and spacious, giving everyone a lot of elbow room but still keeping them in arm’s reach of the grill.  The waitresses bring the rice (white or “brown” (purple, actually)) to the table instead of us getting it ourselves and they also cut the meat. They are pretty good about checking in on us as well.

While the price may seem steep for a buffet, for our family it is a decent deal since we can pack away the Korean BBQ.  Just be careful as they will charge you for any meat you leave behind.

Everytime we have come here, the place has been fairly empty.  I don’t know if it’s the cost that’s prohibitive for lunch or if people prefer to come here during the dinner hours.  It works out nicely for us as we get good service and there’s no line at the buffet.

The Catty Critic gives New Seoul BBQ 4 NOMs.

New Seoul BBQ
9902 Garden Grove Boulevard
Garden Grove, CA 92844
(714) 537-9292
New Seoul Korean BBQ Buffet on Urbanspoon

Korean bbq on the west side…finally!

Manna Korean BBQ just opened up a second location in Culver City at the Westfield mall (formally known as Fox Hills Mall).  West side, rejoice!

Manna Korean BBQ - bar

Manna Korean BBQ - dining area

Manna Korean BBQ - grill

I’ve been here twice since it opened and have to say, while the food isn’t any different than the Koreatown location (read my review here), the setting is MUCH better.  Instead of sitting in a covered outdoor patio, you’re in a nice space with abstract paper mache art, high ceilings and clubby music.  It’s better ventilated so you don’t come out smelling like greasy smoke as much.

They still offer up their all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ for $16.99.  It’s a great deal if you have a large party or are hungry and want variety.  The only catch is that if one person orders it, the whole table has to as well.  I recommend going with the Jumulroc (marinated boneless shortrib, the bulgogi – chicken, beef or pork- and the samgyupsal (pork belly).  Marinated meats mean more flavor and pork belly…well…it’s like thick cuts of bacon!  It’s not the best-tasting Korean BBQ but it’s decent and for the price, awesome.

They give a nice variety of banchan.  Salad, kimchi, japchae, sliced daikon, rice paper and boiled egg seem to be the common fair.  I’ve also been served potato salad and seaweed on different occassions.  While the flavors aren’t anything to rave about, the variety and abundance is nice.

The menu also offers up some non-bbq items like dumplings, bibimbap and soondubu jigae but I haven’t tried any of this.  Based on reviews on Yelp, the soondubu is to be skipped.  I did see plates of dumplings go by on the last visit and they are quite large.  I’ll have to order up a plate next time to see if the taste is as big.

The space is large and they can easily accommodate big parties.  However, call ahead for reservations if you do bring the gang or go early.  I think the service here is also better.  They seem more attentive though be prepared to use the call button when they are super busy.  Also, it can get quite loud during peak dining hours.

The nice thing about being located at a mall is that there is plenty of parking.  Also, you can window shop to walk off the full stomach.

This location gets 4NOMS because of the nicer space and better service as well as the cost for the quantity and the okay quality of the food.

Manna Korean BBQ
6000 Sepulveda Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90230
(310) 397-9901
Manna Korean BBQ on Urbanspoon

P.S.  Poor iPhone pics FTW…

Decent inexpensive sushi in San Diego – Convoy Sushi & Fish Market

If you want decent inexpensive sushi, you can’t go wrong with Convoy Sushi & Fish Market.  I went here for lunch with some coworkers. One of them and I split
– a Rainbow box
– 3 orders of nigiri
– Kalbi appetizer
– two handrolls
and were comfortably full.

Convoy Sushi & Fish Market - Rainbow Box

Convoy Sushi & Fish Market - Rainbow Box

The Rainbow box contains a rainbow roll, half a spicy tuna roll, some edamame and seaweed salad…all for $5. You can’t get a rainbow roll for $5 at most sushi restaurants! I won’t lie, this wasn’t the best RR I’ve had; the crab was a little overpowering. But the fish was fresh, the roll nicely packed, and the rice seasoned and cooked just right.  This would make for an okay sushi lunch for a tight budget.

Salmon, Yellowtail, Tuna nigiri

Salmon, Yellowtail, Tuna nigiri

For the nigiri, we ordered salmon, hamachi (yellowtail) and tuna. These were also pretty good and tasted fresh. The fish to rice ratio was good although I’m used to more fish and less rice thanks to Sushi n’ Joy.  I had a spicy tuna hand roll and wished it had a little bit more of a kick to it but it was still good and rather plump. For $2.50-3.50 an order, this was a pretty good deal.

Kalbi "appetizer"

Kalbi "appetizer"

The Kalbi appetizer was a surprise. I was expecting a small plate with a few pieces of kalbi but instead, we got what could easily be a lunch entree for a single person. Rice, a good amount of marinated short ribs and kimchi filled the plate. The ribs were tender and well-marinated. The kimchi was good and slightly on the spicy side. And this was only $5-6.

The service was great. I never had to ask for a water refill. Our food arrived rather quickly (though I think it helped that it wasn’t super busy) as well.

I expect to come here more often as this is a quick, cheap place to get both good sushi for the price and delicious hot entrees.  It isn’t the best sushi and won’t compare to places like Sushi Ota but the price vs. quality makes this a bargain and worth coming to when you want sushi but have a thin wallet.

4 NOMs for Convoy Sushi & Fish Market because the bargain hunter in me was happy.

Convoy Sushi & Fish Market
7905 Engineer Rd
(between Brinell St & Mercury St)
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 634-3233
www.fishnsushi.com
Convoy Sushi & Fish Market on Urbanspoon

Manna

So this past Saturday was the Korean BBQ Festival in Koreatown.  The husband and I had plans to meet up with friends there and eat some yummy meat.  However, while we were driving down Vermont (in horrendous traffic), our friends called up to say they were already there and that it was…well…not really worth it.  We decided that our money would be better spent going to Manna and having our own private Korean BBQ festival.

Entrance

Entrance to Manna


Manna - Where's the beef?

Manna - Where's the beef?

Manna is a “restaurant” on the corner of Olympic and Gramercy that boasts a $16.99 all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ that you cook yourself at a grill on your table.  The exterior of the building doesn’t really make it obvious this place is a restaurant so it’s easy to miss.  When you walk in, you realize that you’re actually still outside; you’re just in a covered patio area.  The actual kitchen and restrooms are in the building.  Long rows of tables with built-in grills fill the space.  It’s not uncommon to have several large groups at the same row of tables.

Our group of 6 arrived early (around 6:30pm) enough to not have trouble getting a table.  However, Manna gets filled up quickly so reservations are recommended if you have a very large party or want to eat later.

We ordered one of everything for our table – bulgogi, kalbi (boneless), beef brisket, pork belly, BBQ pork and BBQ chicken.  K and I also decided to split a large Pineapple Soju.  Our drinks and banchan arrived.  Apparently, the Soju was intended for four people.  o_O  It was a rather large carafe.  However, it wasn’t terribly strong which was okay with me since I’m a lightweight and I had an extremely empty stomach.  If you are a fan of pineapple juice, this is a good drink for you.  There was also a Lemon Soju as well.  A funny quirk about Manna is that if you want water, you have to ask for it and there are signs posted on the walls stating so.

Manna - Banchan

Manna - Banchan

Our banchan consisted of rice paper and daikon wrappers, japchae, shredded daikon kimchee, regular kimchee, spinach cooked in sesame oil, potato salad and a pot of boiled egg (not pictured).  There was also a salad that we noticed other tables getting so we asked for some towards the end of the meal.  It had a really nice cold ginger dressing on it. The banchan was all decent and flavorful.  The kimchee, while strong was not spicy.  I really enjoyed the spinach; it is one of my favorite banchan dishes and Manna’s version reminded me of my Mom’s.

Manna - cart o' meat!

Manna - cart o' meat!


Manna - bulgogi

Manna - bulgogi


Manna - plate o' meat!

Manna - plate o' meat!


Manna

Manna- beef brisket and onions cooking

One thing about Manna that I noticed is that they do not serve rice.  This allowed us to eat a lot of Korean BBQ, definitely more than $16.99 would have gotten us at a standard Korean BBQ restaurant.  When our meat arrived, it was on a cart with other tables’ orders.  The waiter immediately dumped the plate of bulgogi on the grill and then handed us a large plate of BBQ chicken and another even larger plate piled with beef brisket, kalbi, BBQ pork and a large slice of pork belly.  They also handed us a pair of scissors so we could trim down the larger cuts.  Manna is a very “do it yourself” type of restaurant.  Hey, for the price, I’m not complaining.

The bulgogi was good here though very fatty (hey, more flavor!).  The marinade was on the sweeter side, a bit sweeter than I prefer, but still tasty.  This was the table’s favorite dish as the boys ordered 2 more plates of the bulgogi after we finished off the first delivery.  I think by the time we were done, we had eaten a whole cow or what equated to a whole cow weight-wise.  The bbq chicken was good as well, marinated in the same thing as the bulgogi but the sweetness worked better for the chicken.  The beef brisket was served plain but we had two dipping sauces – seasoned sesame oil and a soy sauce-based one.  I liked to dip the beef in both and then wrap it either in the rice paper or the daikon with a little bit of the spinach.  I can’t recall anything about the BBQ pork though I know I ate some.  The pork belly was fine though unseasoned as well.  They only served one slice of the pork belly.  The kalbi was good as well.  I am used to the 3-bone short rib cut but here, they had trimmed off the bone so you only had to deal with the meat.  All the meat cooked up nice and tender which was a plus.

Each table is equipped with a bell that you can ring and the waiters know that you require service.  They’re pretty good about responding promptly.

For $16.99, Manna’s all-you-can-eat is a bargain and totally worth the trip.  You don’t even have to worry about parking in K-town because the restaurant has their own private lot that supplies “free” valet parking (tip at least $2).

I give Manna 3 1/2 NOMs.

Manna
3377 W Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90019
(323) 733-8516
http://www.mannakoreanbbq.com/

Manna Korean BBQ on Urbanspoon

Dae Jang Keum

When it comes to Korean food, this is where my coworkers and I come for lunch when I’m in town. Why? Their dolsot bibimbap (hot stone pot with rice, meat and vegetables). For $10 (including tax and tip) we get a huge bowl of this yummy goodness. The bowl is always steaming hot so that you get that nice crust of crunchy rice at the bottom (provided you let it sit long enough). For you vegetarians, you can order it without meat. The bibimbap sauce they serve here is not spicy-hot; rather it is really flavorful and adds to the dish.

There are a lot of other items on the menu. The bento boxes (also $10 with tax n’ tip) are a good deal. The spicy pork bbq one has a lot of heat to it so only order it if you like to take a walk on the spicier side. The chicken and beef are safer bets if you want something flavorful but won’t burn your mouth. Sometimes, the bbq beef can be a little on the greasy side, though. It comes with rice, a large helping of salad, 2 pieces of California roll and vegetable tempura. And if available, there’s also a piece of shrimp tempura as well. Note, though, that the bento boxes are only available M-F during lunch.

Other dishes I’ve had here is the mul naeng myun (a cold buckwheat noodle soup), mandu guk (dumpling soup), bibim naeng myun (buckwheat noodle dish mixed with the bibimbap sauce) and kimchi jigae, all of which are good and remind me of what I grew up eating.

The banchan here is great and changes every time we come though the staple kimchi is always present.

There’s the “cook your own meat” option that most people think about when they hear “korean bbq” though I have not tried it here.

The service is typical of all Korean restaurants I’ve been to…you have to ask for what you want , including refills on water since they won’t come by to check on you.

3 1/2 NOMs for Dae Jang Keum!

Dae Jang Keum
7905 Engineer Rd
San Diego, CA 92111
(858) 573-2585

Gyenari redux

img_0134The 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.

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Gyenari - Bacon & Cheddar Jeon Jeon

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.

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Gyenari - Ox-tail broth

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Gyenari - banchan

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.

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Gyenari - Spicy Pork Bulgogi lunch special

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.

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Gyenari - Bibimbap

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.

Gyenari
9450 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232
(310) 838-3131
http://www.gyenari.com/
Gyenari on Urbanspoon