The “All Star” bossam comes in three flavors on a bed of sliced onions that cook on your table.(Cecilia Hae-Jin Lee )
Name of restaurant: Mr. Bossam. Check out the cartoon mascot, presumably Mr. Bossam himself, who’s giving you a thumbs-up as you walk in. Bossam is a boiled pork dish, traditionally eaten during gimjang (in autumn, when Koreans make kimchi from the year’s harvest). Today, it’s popular as an anju (food eaten with alcohol).
Concept: The restaurant is part of a popular chain in South Korea, which first opened in Seoul in 2012. Open in Los Angeles since last December, Mr. Bossam serves a modern take on bossam, with flavor toppings such as sweet garlic or green onion. The menu offerings also include spicy pork ribs with cheese and corn. It’s part of the current South Korean trend of fusion restaurants, especially those that serve cheese with spicy foods.
What dish represents the restaurant, and why: The spicy pork ribs on a bed of bubbly cheese and corn is the most fun to order. It’s called “L.A. grilled cheese fire pork baby ribs,” but don’t be confused by the “grilled cheese” part of it. There is nary a grilled cheese sandwich in sight.
The dish comes served on a divided cast iron dish with the spicy pork ribs on top of a bed of mozzarella cheese, corn and pickled jalapeño slices. On the outer edges are tiny baby potatoes, steamed egg, slices of mushrooms and a few small pieces of pineapple. Once the cheese starts to melt, your server will come over and cut the ribs for you, then show you how to wrap the stringy cheese on the ribs before eating. The ribs are chewy and extremely messy, but that’s why they provide a box of disposable gloves on each table.
After you’re almost done, your server will return and make fried rice in the leftover spicy pork sauce -- which is then topped with more cheese and a cracked egg, because you can never get enough cheese and egg.
Runner-up: The bossam, of course. The “All Star” bossam is a good bet if you want to try three flavors -- sweet garlic, green onion and sweet and spicy, which is made with gochujang, or Korean chile paste. According to a server, sweet garlic is the most popular. The original bossam, which is just unadorned thinly sliced pieces of pork, is the least interesting item on the menu.
Who’s at the next table: A group of young Korean men share bottles of soju while complaining about their professors. At another table, young Korean women complain about their boyfriends.
Appropriate for: Pork lovers of all stripes, although your dinner is probably going to be a bit messy for date night.
Problematic: The outside covered patio can get really hot during the day, because there’s no air flow. Also, be sure not to wear white, because there’s a good chance you’ll splatter some of that red gochujang on yourself somehow.
Service: The service is energetic but uneven. Don’t be shy about using the buzzer by your table.
What are you drinking? Given that bossam is a favorite drinking meal, share a bottle of makgeolli (milky Korean rice wine), soju or baeksaeju -- “100-year wine,” a Korean rice wine with ginseng and other herbs said to help you live to be 100 years old.
Info: 338 S. Western Ave., Los Angeles, 213-388-5379.