It’s always a dilemma choosing the first post of the year. There are so many places worthy of ringing in the new year, but I think 2016 deserves to start off with a top notch restaurant with a menu that satisfies on every level. Chef Chris Oh of Seoul Sausage and Los Angeles restaurateur Stephane Bombet of Terrine and Viviane (among others) fame have joined forces with Culver City’s latest eatery — Hanjip. It joins other noteworthy eateries such as Akasha, and City Tavern where you’ll find the Cutthroat Kitchen winner taking his Korean roots, and pushing it to another level.
The menu is quite simple. There are four sections: Kurobuta Pork; Prime Beef; Chef’s Cuts; and Bonus. We decide to select something from each to get a good feel of what Hanjip has to offer.
Before you start, an array of banchan (side dishes) is brought to the table. Some of these dishes will change from time to time, but items such as Napa cabbage/cucumber disc kimchi and kongnamul (bean sprouts) will always make an appearance. We love all the dishes, but are partial to the strips of potatoes, and shredded dried squid both of which we eat several servings of.
We always begin our KBBQ experience with Cha-Dohl ($23), or sliced brisket, a cut which is lean and requires not a lot of time on the grill.
Some like it a little under-done, while others, prefer it to be a little crispy on the edges. Take a piece of meat, dip it into the salt or dipping sauce, and eat.
I also like changing it up a bit with the chile paste, or with a sliver of raw garlic and jalapeno. The brisket possesses an aromatic meatiness which only comes from top quality beef.
Another KBBQ favorite is Hyeo-Mit ($28), or beef tongue. The one here is sliced paper thin — you don’t want it thick because it will become rubbery when you cook it. A few seconds on a scorching hot grill is all you need. This is a must-order! So tender and bursting with flavor.
Han-Jong-Sal ($26) catches my eye. It is something you don’t often see on a KBBQ menu. The pork neck/jowl seems fatty in its raw state, but the heat will render the meat in a way that the fat and lean parts meld together to form a texturally pleasing morsel, and also, uniquely delicious.
If you happen to visit during lunch, there are five specials only offered during the day. We choose Poke Bowl ($15) filled with chunks of tuna, salmon roe, avocado, seaweed, julienned perilla leaves, ginger and thin nori strips. It is good if KBBQ isn’t your fancy.
There is an array of BONUS dishes you should order. Uni Steamed Egg ($19) with salmon roe arrives bubbling hot and I suggest taking the uni OFF the egg as quickly as possible so that the uni doesn’t “cook” too much. The uni will harden the longer it sits on the hot egg and lose its buttery texture. Although the idea of the uni steamed egg is mindblowingly good, I still prefer the egg on its own — call me a stickler for the traditional.
If you’re a fan of corn like I am, then definitely don’t miss out on Bone Marrow Corn Cheese ($15). This decadent, unctuous concoction with shaved Parmesan and bonito flakes is laden with umami flavors that we all agree, blew our minds.
The Seafood Pancake ($17) here is abundantly dotted with rock shrimp, bay scallops and scallions. Dip into the accompanying sauce and take a bite. Even though I absolutely love the pajun, it will fill you up fast, so don’t be afraid to box it up to take home. It is perfectly delicious the next day after a few minutes in the toaster oven.
Chef Oh sends out a sizzling plate of Dukbokki which will soon make its way onto the menu. The rice cake dish is a twist on the traditional, topped with melted cheese. At first glance, I am skeptical because I’m so bent on the authentic. However, I’m hooked after one bite. The cheese adds a certain gooey texture to the perfectly toothsome texture of the rice cake but doesn’t overwhelm. The spicy sauce is rich, enveloping both the rice cake and oden (fish cake) creating a textural whirlwind in my mouth. The Dukbokki is a must order — it is so, so good.
Hanjip is one of those restaurants which will undoubtedly be successful. Excellent quality combined with creative tweaks brings Korean barbecue to a whole new level.