Quality Korean Barbecue in Los Angeles

I’m about to wax poetic about Korean barbecue, but first, I need to clear up a misconception. There is much, much more to Korean food than barbecue. The reason there are so many Korean barbecue restaurants in this country is that Americans, not Koreans, are obsessed with meat.    (IS0)

Those of you who have read my previous entries about food may be surprised to hear me complain about this, because I clearly love meat. True enough. But I love food in general, and I find this narrow view of this widely varied cuisine annoying. That said, I also know that Korean food is an acquired taste for most Americans — we eat lots of spicy, salty, fermented, fishy foods — and that when folks ask for restaurant recommendations, they usually want barbecue.    (IS1)

For the most part, I’m ambivalent about recommending Korean barbecue places. The meat quality at most places is about the same, so I tend to differentiate them by the marinade (which I find too sweet at most restaurants), the quality of the banchan (the small appetizer plates that come with the meal) and other items on the menu, and the service. I, like many others, enjoy Brother’s in San Francisco for its wood-fired grills and friendly service, but I’m not blown away by the food there.    (IS2)

When folks ask me to recommend good Korean restaurants in Los Angeles, my hometown, I’m usually stumped. Unlike the Bay Area, Korean restaurants abound down south. Nevertheless, the same thing holds true: The quality at most of these places is about the same.    (IS3)

Thankfully, I’m stumped no more. Last night, my parents took me to ChoSun Galbee, located in the heart of Korea Town in Los Angeles. The food there is good. Damn good.    (IS4)

I knew my experience there would be different as soon as they brought out the raw meat, which looked amazingly fresh and beautifully marbled. Most restaurants marinate their meat overnight, which is actually overkill, because the meat is sliced very thin. The chef at ChoSun Galbee marinates the meat immediately, which has the added benefit of showcasing the quality of the meat. This is only a good thing, of course, if the quality of the meat is worth showcasing, which is probably why most restaurants don’t do it.    (IS5)

The shorter marination time did nothing to decrease the melding of the flavors, which was less sweet and slightly more complex than most restaurants. I was especially impressed by the daeji bulgogi — spicy pork — where I detected strong hints of ginger and cinnamon, in addition to the usual garlic, soy sauce, and gochoo chang (hot pepper paste).    (IS6)

In addition to the daeji bulgogi, we had bulgogi (thinly sliced beef) and galbee (shortribs), both of which were excellent. I thought they skimped on the galbee portions, but “skimping” is relative. I was so full, I could barely walk out of the place.    (IS7)

We also had the mul naengmyun — chewy noodles in a cold broth — which was okay, but not overwhelmingly good. As with the meat, the quality of the ingredients tasted high, which is usually as much as I can ask for when ordering naengmyun. (I’m a naengmyun snob, so take my review with a grain of salt. If anyone knows of a good place to get bibim naengmyun in the Bay Area, let me know.) Same went for the banchan — good, obviously made with decent ingredients, but not extraordinary.    (IS8)

(One reason naengmyun tends to be mediocre at most places is that it’s actually a North Korean specialty. As you can imagine, the recipes and techniques for making it well have not been widely disseminated. That said, it’s not impossible to find a decent bowl in Los Angeles, which is more than I can say for the Bay Area. It’s an absolute travesty.)    (IS9)

Apparently, I’m not the first to sing ChoSun Galbee’s praises. It’s a big restaurant with a beautiful patio area, and the place was packed. If you find yourself in Los Angeles, and you’re looking for good Korean barbecue, ChoSun Galbee is the place to be. It’s slightly more expensive than your average Korean restaurant, but the quality makes it well worth it.    (ISA)

Observations from Portals 2005

When I worked at Dr. Dobb’s Journal, I did the software development and IT conference circuit regularly. Most of those conferences were incredibly boring, but they were rarely a waste of time. What made them compelling were the attendees.    (IM0)

I’ve been spoiled in the six years since. Not only have the conferences I’ve attended been more diverse and interesting, many of them have exploited collaborative processes that emphasized participant interaction. That’s obviously an advantage if the reason you’re attending is to meet interesting folks. Additionally, most of these events were more about social good rather than corporate productivity. As a result, the energy is much more positive.    (IM1)

Attending Portals, Collaboration, and Content Management 2005 these past few days was a blast to the past for me, which was exactly why I chose to attend. I wanted to reconnect with the corporate IT community and discover what they were thinking about these days, especially regarding collaboration. I also wanted to test my ideas with this crowd, to see if I still remembered the language of this community and if my message would fly.    (IM2)

I gave the first talk in the collaboration track, and it was very well received, moreso than I expected. There was a snafu with the program, which listed my talk as, “Collaboration: What’s In It For Me,” when the actual title was, “Collaboration: What The Heck Is It?” One woman approached me afterwards and told me that she was originally planning on attending my talk, then saw what the real title was and decided to attend a different one instead. Afterwards, she ate lunch with several people who did attend my talk, and much to her chagrin, they raved about it.    (IM3)

Several people told me they enjoyed the interactivity of my presentation. That was intentional. It engaged the audience, and it gave me a chance to learn from them. My plan wasn’t to teach, it was to stretch people’s minds, to give them an opportunity to think about things in new ways.    (IM4)

Folks who know me well or read this blog regularly know how much I tout highly interactive conferences. I think there is a huge opportunity for such an event for IT workers. I heard very little that interested me in the conference tracks. The attendees were far more interesting than the speakers, and most of my learning occurred during the meals. Several people even said as much, completely unprovoked by me.    (IM5)

Some other observations:    (IM6)

  • I ran into a number of people who had been with their companies for 15 years or longer. One person suggested that the reason for this was that companies liked to put their most experienced people in charge of portals. It makes perfect sense. These folks have an innate understanding of the organizational dynamics, which portals should parallel.    (IM7)
  • Kaliya Hamlin suggested that people attending this conference would be really interested in Identity Commons. Sure enough, several people said they were looking for good Single Sign-On solutions. However, despite my active involvement and evangelism with Identity Commons, I don’t think Identity Commons provides what these people are looking for right now. The real value of Identity Commons as an identity solution is inter-organizational, whereas most IT people are dealing with intra-organizational problems.    (IM8)
  • I was blown away by the proliferation of SharePoint in organizations. During my talk, several audience members realized that they were all dealing with similar challenges with SharePoint, so they gathered afterwards to discuss. I discovered many others in similar situations. I mentioned this to some folks at the SAP Netweaver booth, and they said they were blown away by the same observation. SharePoint seems to be making real viral headway in organizations, largely from the bottom-up. Ironically, some IT people are expressing the same misgivings about SharePoint as they do about Open Source software.    (IM9)
  • I love warm, summer nights. Yes, I realize it’s still spring. An April evening in Phoenix is about equivalent to a July evening in Los Angeles.    (IMA)