Scouting Report: Spicy soup and more Korean comfort food at Yook Cal Bop Sang in Koreatown
The haemul pajeon (seafood pancake) is a generously thick pancake, made with more than the usual amount of eggs in the batter.(Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee)
The signature “yook cal” spicy shredded beef soup at Yook Cal Bop Sang in Koreatown.(Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee)
The selection of simple banchan changes seasonally.(Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee)
The restaurant’s sign is only in Korean, but look for it in the same complex as Madang Gooksu, right next to Eight Korean BBQ.(Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee)
The galbi tang (beef rib soup) also comes with a side of kalgooksu and a bowl of rice.(Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee)
Name of restaurant: Yook Cal Bop Sang. “Yook cal” is a mash-up of yookgaejang (a spicy beef soup) and calgooksu (knife-cut noodles). “Bop Sang” literally translates to rice or meal table — because rice is synonymous with meal in Korean — which is to say, a dining table.
Owner: This is one of the many restaurants and franchises owned by Baek Jong-won, who is famous in Korea for his appearances on the shows “My Little Television” and “House Cook Master Baek.” Though he’s not a professionally trained chef, he’s known for his down-home and simple cooking style, and his unpretentious Chungcheong-do accent. The Los Angeles location opened in 2015; the Seoul location opened in 1993.
What dish represents the restaurant, and why: The namesake dish, yookgaejang, is a crimson broth, loaded with green onions and shredded beef and topped with fried egg. Each bowl is served with rice and a small bowl of the kalgooksu noodles on the side. The fiery red soup is spicy, for sure, but not so spicy that you can’t finish the whole bowlful.
Runners-up: There are only six items on the menu here, with the unusual addition of the euiryung soba (cold beef buckwheat noodles) in the middle of all these traditional Korean dishes. The photos on the wall and the mini-menu on the table will help you decide. The haemul pajeon (seafood pancake) is a generously thick pancake, made with more than the usual amount of eggs in the batter. The jeon is colored with strips of red pepper and filled with bits of scallions, squid and tiny shrimps — a perfect dish to share with friends.
The galbi tang (beef rib soup) also comes with a side of kalgooksu and a bowl of rice. The umami-rich broth is perfect for a cold night. The ggakdugi (cubed radish kimchi) that comes as banchan, the small plates served at the beginning of the meal, is just the right accompaniment.
Who’s at the next table: Yook Cal Bop Sang is an understated little place with regulars getting a weekday meal, couples grabbing food because they don’t want to cook at home, or single diners coming in for some Korean comfort food.
Service: On a recent visit, there were only two young guys serving, bussing and ringing up customers. They’re fast and polite, but busy — so you’ll probably have to call out for the check when you’re ready to leave.
Info: 859 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles, (213) 386-0410. (In the same complex as Ma Dang Gook Su, Eight Korean BBQ and a BCD Tofu House.)
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