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Scouting Report: Gwang Yang BBQ in KTown

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Name of restaurant: Gwang Yang BBQ in Koreatown

Concept: A top-notch Korean barbecue restaurant, where the focus is on bulgogi galbi‘s less popular cousin. The barbecue is savory, juicy, charcoal-grilled; and unlike most Korean barbecue joints, Gwang Yang is not afraid to serve its beef several minutes short of well done. The meat is high quality, so think of this place as a new alternative to Park’s or Chosun or Madang621. It’s on the pricey side, but the barbecue’s about as good as it gets. Gwang Yang is already popular in Seoul, but this is its first and only L.A. branch. It just opened in Koreatown, in the space previously occupied by Sohyang, after a seven-figure remodel.

What dish represents the restaurant, and why? The Gwang Yang bulgogi, served, yes, Gangnam-style. This is a dish of beautifully marinated beef, cut into thin pieces that cook up tender and silky, each ribbon pulled off the grill with all its flavor and delicate texture intact. Bulgogi is sliced thinner than galbi, which is usually seen in slabs. It’s an inferior cut at most restaurants, as it curls and overcooks more easily than sturdy short rib — visit Gwang Yang to see bulgogi realize its full potential. It has a velvety, almost slurpable texture that requires very little chew, and each sliver of meat is dense with taste. Gangnam is a region of Seoul, and “Gangnam-style” defines the flavor profile, which is simple and beef-centric but clearly pronounced.

Runner-up: The L.A.-style Gwang Yang bulgogi is also excellent, with a sweeter marinade that suits the meat well. The yetbuljeon is a soupy version of bulgogi, with the sliced meat served up in a stew loaded with mushrooms and vegetables. Otherwise, the galbi is as good as any you’re likely to get. And, surprisingly, Gwang Yang serves some of the best eundaegu jorim, or spicy braised cod, in Koreatown. banchan is also excellent. The marinated potato and the salad with black sesame dressing is particularly creditable.

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Who’s at the next table? Four middle-aged Korean ladies splitting a bottle of soju at lunch.

Appropriate for: A decadent lunch, or a feast of a Korean barbecue dinner. You can get private rooms for larger parties, making Gwang Yang an ideal place for a nice group dinner.
Uh-oh: That valet parking lot is frequently a nightmare.

Service: Slightly disorganized at times, but friendly and solicitous. The servers are quite pleasant.

What are you drinking? Diet Coke with lunch. Wine with dinner. Ideally, a bottle of soju in the middle of the day.

Gwang Yang BBQ, 3435 Wilshire Blvd., Koreatown, (213) 385-560, gybonga.com.


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