Scouting Report: The ultimate Korean shaved ice at Okrumong
Name of restaurant: Okrumong
Concept: The top-quality patbingsu spot we’ve been waiting on for years, imported straight from South Korea. (Patbingsu, by the way, is South Korea’s version of shaved ice, topped with sweet red beans.) I grew up eating Nicole’s and Ice Kiss, but Okrumong is on another level. The menu offers a handful of snow bowls, porridges, snow cups and baked goods, mostly built around the red beans, which are boiled in a traditional iron caldron. The basic bingsu is a bowl of snowy shaved ice textured and sweetened with milk, with a couple rice cakes and a heap of red beans, either on top or served on the side. There are different flavors, but you won’t find ice cream or Fruity Pebbles here, as the focus really is on those beans. The red beans also get used in rich, flavorful porridges that fall between soup and dessert. The shop is highbrow, as dessert shops go, with heavy copper bowls and silverware that my mother assures me are very expensive. They will count your spoons if you need more than one or two.
What dish represents the restaurant, and why? The gold snow bowl with red beans, a mound of fine shaved ice heavily dusted with misugaru, a traditional Korean powder made from a multitude of roasted grains, with some slivered almond on top. It is probably the most Korean dessert you’ll ever have, served with a side of sweet red beans and two soft, sticky globs of rice cake, also topped with misugaru. The nutty grain powder and the barely sweet red beans go well together, and the fluffy ice makes it all light and refreshing.
Runner-ups: I like the black snow bowl at least as much as the gold. It’s black sesame heaven, ethereal in texture but packed with flavor. The green and OG snow bowls are also tremendous, flavored with green tea and just good old milk. Porridges are strictly for red bean fanatics, but if you like patjuk you won’t find better in L.A. If you don’t like red beans at all, you might try the snow cups, which are shaved ice parfaits layered with yogurt, coconut, granola and fruit. These are fine, if not really the point of the place.
Who’s at the next table? A young Korean couple on a weekday date; a Korean nun wearing socks with Croc sandals. It might be worth noting that I have yet to see a non-Korean in Okrumong.
Appropriate for: Dessert hour. Probably a good date spot if it isn’t too crowded.
Uh-oh: It’s a small place that gets busy, so you can expect to wait if you go at night. Also, this ice is expensive — at $8.25 per patbingsu it might be the priciest shaved-ice joint in town. I wouldn’t recommend it if it weren’t the best of its kind.
Service: Fine. Typical counter service.
What are you drinking? The liquid puddled at the bottom of this bingsu. It is delicious.
Info: Okrumong, 3801 W. 6th St., Koreatown, (213) 388-7300; also at 2814 Sepulveda Blvd., Torrance, (310) 517-9558.
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