A new take on Korean tacos to obsess over at Seoul on Sixth in Westlake
For the last decade, the fusion of Korean and Mexican cuisines has been all but defined by Roy Choi’s Kogi BBQ and a successive invasion of imitators, each with its own kalbi-based taco.
Jon Kim’s tacos are not those tacos.
Kim, 26, runs Seoul on Sixth, a street-side plancha in Westlake that will upend your expectations of what a Korean taco — or, as he calls them, “tacos Koreanos” — tastes like.
A Southern California native, Kim was a business finance student at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo when Kogi became a sensation.
He says he was already making his own Korean-inspired burritos and tacos for friends, using leftovers from the care packages of frozen Korean food his mother regularly sent him.
Kogi’s success was an eye-opener.
“Roy Choi is one of my idols,” Kim says. “There are very few Korean Americans that we can look up to, and he’s definitely paved the way for us.”
A decade later, and this self-taught taquero is popping up on weekends, usually in front of Mark’s Liquor, the neighborhood store his family has owned, off and on, over the last 46 years. Family members, such as his brother and cousin, often help out.
His cultural combinations manage to mingle and honor elements from multiple cuisines with a street style that doesn’t feel forced or too fabricated.
“Identity can get lost in trying to make fusion work,” Kim says. “I respect the taco a lot. And I wanted to really respect what a taco means to me.”
In other words, there’s no kimchi on his tacos. But many have a crisp cheese lining inspired by his favorite tacos de rajas at Santa Barbara’s now-closed La Colmena. His own rajas, the menu’s only vegetarian item, is a must-order.
A special called “Barbakorea,” which tastes a bit like a Mexican cover of galbi-jjim, is filled with brisket that Kim slow-cooks for eight hours.
The bulgogi asada is made of tender, thinly sliced rib-eye, with a semi-tropical sweetness from a marinade of brown sugar, soy and fruit.
The pastor-like La Jura is named after slang for the police, and El Culito, with ginger, soy, garlic and sake-marinated chashu-style carnitas, is named after a quote in the film “American Me.”
Kim says he’s not trying to create the next viral taco photo opp.
Having grown up on the cooking of his Mexican American friends’ families in L.A. and the Central Coast, he says he wants to make quality food that connects with the community, a mission that extends to his embrace of the plancha and tortillas, which he makes by hand.
“Working here with my dad and walking along 6th Street toward MacArthur Park, I know a lot of people and street vendors in our neighborhood,” the Westlake resident said. “And I wanted to do something that resonated with them.”
Seoul on Sixth, instagram.com/seoulonsixth
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