Name of restaurant: Hansol Noodle, inside the Madang Plaza Shopping Mall, on the corner of Western Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard.
Concept: Hansol took over the upscale Madang 621 restaurant space in July. The open-air space, wooden details and dramatic entryway is a stark contrast to the humble noodle dishes served here. Owned by big food conglomerate Hyundae GreenFood, this Korean import is known for its homemade naengmyeon noodles and slow-simmered broth.
What dish represents the restaurant and why? Cold noodles in winter, you ask? If you didn't know, naengmyeon started as a winter dish in North Korea, when ice is plentiful during the snowy weather, centuries before refrigeration.
There are two kinds of naengmyeon at Hansol Noodle. If you're looking for a refreshingly light meal, choose the mool naengmyeon—chewy buckwheat noodles swimming in an icy broth, a sort of savory slushy. It's topped with shredded cucumbers, strips of Asian pear and paper-thin half moons of pickled daikon. The dish is completed with a thin slice of beef and half a hard-boiled egg. Let the server slice up the rubbery noodles for you, unless you relish slurping the seemingly endless strands.
The bibim naengmyeon is almost the same dish, but substitute a pool of spicy red gochujang sauce for the slushy beef broth. It's got some heat, but it's not as spicy as it looks.
The menu also includes some meat dishes (on the pricey side), soups and a couple of bibimbap options.
Who's at the next table? Older Korean men (ahjuhssi) and women (ajumma) dress up for a weekday lunch with friends. At night, younger Koreatown regulars stop in for a quick bite before hitting the bars or noraebang for karaoke.
Appropriate for.... grabbing a quick bite before a movie at the CGV theatre or picking up unusual knickknacks at the Daiso next door.
Uh-oh... The menu is in Korean, but the servers speak English. Although there's a dedicated parking garage, it can be a bear to fight all the SUVs vying for a spot. But what did you expect? It's Koreatown.
Service: It's efficient and quick. The servers will start scissor-slicing your noodles before you know it.
What are you drinking? Go for rounds of soju shots with your buddies, or share a bottle of makgeolli (Korea's milky white rice liquor).
Info: 621 S. Western Ave., Suite 100, (213) 384-2244.