Restaurant preview: Tangier Korean BBQ of Tokyo

Less than two weeks ago, a new restaurant opened in Los Feliz named Tangier Korean BBQ of Tokyo. Even in L.A. -- a city that loves the Korean barbecue taco -- a name like that had people scratching their heads. Was it a fusion restaurant, and if so, would we be introduced to Moroccan sushi? Not so much. The name, it turns out, is as weirdly playful as the restaurant itself.

Located in the old Tangier bar space along Hillhurst’s restaurant row, Tangier is owned by a Korean man named Choongryang Roh who was born in Japan. Roh returned to Korea in college to run his family’s wholesale fish market, one of the biggest in the country. He opened several restaurants in Korea, one in Seattle and another in L.A.'s Koreatown before moving on to Tangier.

You’ll find spider rolls, dragon rolls and Tokyo-style carpaccio at Tangier, but the big draw is the barbecue. Roh and manager Andrew Lee, a former sommelier, have made ordering a cinch by putting together a menu of prix-fixe courses that you can choose for just one, or up to four people.

So you’ll get, for example, a crisp green salad; tender tuna carpaccio; seafood chijimi (a Korean pancake that is basically a flavorful cross between an omelet and a quiche); chicken breast in a tangy yuzu-lime pepper marinade; skirt steak; juicy sirloin steak; kalbi; fresh mixed vegetables; and a rich and pleasing kimchi soup.

The portions are large and the attendant panchan (small bowls of appetizers, bean paste and sauces) many, so feel free to drink a few $6 signature cocktails from the large bar up front. The lemongrass mojito is tart and refreshing, and the Seoul ice tea made with sweet tea vodka will put Long Island’s to shame.

“Previously, Tangier was known for its bar crowd,” says Lee. “We have really knowledgeable bartenders and I’m great with wine, so we’re hoping to attract those people again.”

That shouldn’t be hard considering that the restaurant’s decor is eye candy for the intoxicated set. It’s a kitschy hodgepodge of animation-themed wallpaper, sparkly wall tiles and bright pink and purple lights. There’s also a giant robot by the bar and an enormous LED screen in the dining room that phases in and out of abstract shapes and colors, but will eventually play animated films. As an added bonus, the servers wear Japanese maid uniforms on weekend nights.

The restaurant’s mascot is a buxom animated Asian angel named Kiki. The menu doubles as a comic book, chronicling Kiki’s misadventures in boots, a garter belt and little else. In one scene she shoots a baby elephant with her bow and arrow and the little elephant runs away crying.

It’s an odd vignette to accompany barbecuing meat, but in the end Kiki is redeemed and you’re too full to moralize anyway.

Tangier Korean BBQ of TokyoWhere: 2138 Hillhurst Ave., Los Angeles. When: 5:30 to 10:30 p.m Sundays to Thursdays, 5:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Lunch service and patio coming soon. Price: À la carte barbecue $3.95 to $32; prix-fixe courses $16.50 to $98.50; cocktails $6. Contact: (323) 663-2000.