Name of restaurant: The sign outside in Korean reads: Gaju Hanshik • Bunshik (even though the receipt reads “Caju Naneng Myon”). Hanshik means “Korean food,” easy enough. Bunshik literally translates to “food made from flour,” but has now come to mean inexpensive/snack food.
Concept: This is Korean fast food. They used to be a little snack joint inside the California (or as K-Towners say “Caju”) Market on Western and 5th, hence the name. Now they have their own location in a K-Town mini-mall off of Manhattan Place.
What dish represents the restaurant, and why? Their best dishes are their naengmyeon. The mool (“water”) naengmyeon has intriguingly chewy sweet potato noodles swimming in a chilled beef broth. Theirs is made from real beef and topped with julienned pickled radish and thin slices of Persian cucumbers all served in the traditional stainless steel bowl. Add some hot mustard and a bit of vinegar to liven up the dish. Their bibim (“mixed”) naengmyeon has shredded lettuce and cabbage, julienned carrots and sesame seeds all tossed in a sweet and spicy sauce. The heat from the gochujang (fermented chile paste) is a slow burn that sneaks up on you on the second or third bite. The heat lingers long after the last bits have left your tongue.
Who’s at the next table? A young couple on a weekday date. Their chopsticks languidly reaching for another gimbap roll in between text messages. At another table, a group of high school girls share gimbap and ddeokbokgi (spicy rice cake sticks) while giggling secrets to each other.
Appropriate for... a quick and affordable lunch, especially if you have to get back to work inside one of the many office buildings on Wilshire.
Uh-oh: They’re known for their gimbap – Korean rice rolls filled with everything from tuna to kimchi and sausage. However, their tuna gimbap is like a tuna salad and rice roll—mushy and filled with too much mayonnaise. They’re so used to making gimbap for the to-go crowd, that even when you order in, you get it served in a plastic tub.
Service: Quick and casual, just like the food. Although the signs and menus are only in Korean, the servers do speak English. The older waitresses, though, will be relieved if you speak to them in Korean.
What are you drinking? Some of their complimentary chilled barley tea (bolicha) or a can of soda from the revolving varieties available in the cooler by the cash register.
Info: 3839 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (213) 380-2174.
The Scouting Report is a quick look at restaurants worth a visit. Scouts were selected by restaurant critic Jonathan Gold, who may or may not agree with a single word.