The Best Korean BBQ in LA: Park's BBQ vs. Gwang Yang BBQ [Thoughts + Pics]


#1

Full caveat: Park’s BBQ has been our favorite Korean BBQ in L.A. since I can remember. When I joined our old board, the amount of recommendations for Park’s BBQ was overwhelming, from new members to our most OG hounds, Park’s BBQ was the place to try. And when I did try for the first time, I fell in love with the place and it’s been our favorite ever since. :slight_smile:

So a couple years ago, when one of my good friends from Seoul casually mentioned that she thought Gwang Yang BBQ was “better than Park’s” and her favorite Korean BBQ in L.A., I was surprised and shocked, :smirk: :face_with_raised_eyebrow: since I trust her palate and she knows more about Korean food than me (growing up eating it her whole life). And then @Helper_Monkey and a few others were recommending it as well on FTC, and I knew I had to try it out.

Gwang Yang BBQ

Walking into Gwang Yang BBQ, it’s clean, lit sort of like a lounge club(?), and the air wasn’t congested with smoke (like most KBBQ joints). :stuck_out_tongue:

Another cool aspect to Gwang Yang BBQ are the amount of nice, private rooms you can reserve (I think there were 5 - 7 private rooms), if you want to throw a party or just want more privacy while grilling meat. :slight_smile:

Complimentary Banchan:

Their Banchan selection was solid to very good, although it felt a bit limited compared to Park’s. I liked their Konbu the most on this visit, just refreshing, not overly vinegared, nor too salty.

Prime Ggot Sal (Top Prime Chuck Flap):

Over the years, my favorite cut for Korean BBQ has changed, but these days I think it might have to be Ggot Sal. Gwang Yang’s version is gorgeous, well-marbled, but with still enough lean meat to let you enjoy the meatiness of each bite. Taking a bite…

It’s cooked perfectly medium-rare, it’s subtly beefy, tender, but with a nice meatiness in each bite, and a nice balance of lean meat and fat. It is delicious! :heart: At this point, I’m incredulous, but I think this might be better than Park’s version(!). But we’d soon find out.

Mixed Grain Rice:

I really like that Gwang Yang BBQ serves a Mixed Grain Rice, a healthier alternative to White Rice.

Gwang Yang Bulgogi - Gangnam Style (Original Flavor) (Thin Slices of Lightly Marinated Beef):

Gwang Yang is supposedly famous for their Bulgogi (Thin Slices of Marinated Beef), and it’s featured as their “#1” item on the menu. They also offer it in 2 different styles: “Gangnam Style” (not named after the song :stuck_out_tongue:), which is what they call the “Original flavor,” and “LA Style” which is sweeter and more sugary. We went with Gangnam Style.

Compared to the completely non-marinated Ggot Sal that we just had, it was definitely a sharp contrast having Bulgogi, which is marinated with a light sweetness to the meat (like the appeal of Teriyaki or a Sweet BBQ Sauce in a way). But it was indeed far less sweet than the standard Bulgogi you get at most Korean BBQ restaurants around L.A.

There was a nice caramelization and a subtle beefiness came through here as well. It was pretty tasty. :slight_smile:

Doen Jang Jjigae (Korean Soybean Paste Stew with Tofu and Vegetables):

There was a deep funk, a nice pungent aroma leading up to every sip of this wonderful Korean Soybean Paste Stew. This was a pretty good version of this dish. :slight_smile:

Gwang Yang Pork Bulgogi (Barbecued Pork Marinated with Seasonings):

Their Pork Bulgogi was fine: Large fatty bits with lean Pork as well. The seasoning was different from the Beef Bulgogi we just had, a bit more savory than sweet.

2nd Visit:

They offer 3 types condiments to dip the grilled meat into (note: ask for Sesame Oil to pour on top of the Salt for an alternate, fragrant taste).

U.S. Kobe An Chang Sal (American Kobe Beef Outside Skirt):

This had a nice luxurious mouthfeel (from the extra marbling), once again cooked a nice medium-rare by our servers (who were on point, always watching our grill and flipping / turning the meat for us). It was a bit meatier and had a slight chew (not in a bad way), but a little less tender than the Prime Ggot Sal (USDA Prime Chuck Flap).

Pajeon (Assorted Seafood & Vegetable Pancake):

This was OK. Not overly thick, there was a slight crispness, but could’ve been crispier to make it fantastic.

Prime Ggot Deung Sim (Prime Rib Eye):

With the power of those special Korean BBQ scissors, this USDA Prime Rib Eye is quickly cut and expertly grilled in bite-size pieces. :slight_smile:

Besides the nice char on all sides of the Rib Eye, there’s a nice flavor and seasoning that comes through. This was our favorite cut on this 2nd visit. Delicious! :blush:

A nice touch at Gwang Yang BBQ is that they swap out different grills depending on the type of meat. Here our grill was swapped out for this design for our next course:

Woo Seol (Thin Slices of Beef Tongue):

I love a good Beef Tongue dish, whether it’s Lengua or Gyu-Tan, so I was really excited to try Beef Tongue cooked Korean BBQ style. Unfortunately this was no bueno. :frowning:

It was just surprisingly chewy, even though they were really thinly sliced. It turned out to be the chewiest of all of the cuts of meat we’ve had at Gwang Yang.

3rd Visit:

On our 3rd visit, we managed to walk in just before the dinner rush happened.

Cold Buckwheat Noodles (Cold Noodles Served in a Chilled Beef Broth):

With it being a hot day, a couple of our friends wanted some Korean Cold Noodles. Gwang Yang’s Cold Buckwheat Noodles were definitely refreshing, nicely chilled, a nice piquant kick in every sip, and the ultra-thin Buckwheat Noodles made it a pleasure to eat. :slight_smile:

Complimentary Banchan:

Prime Yang Nyeom Galbi (Marinated Prime Short Ribs):

The other popular / iconic Korean BBQ cut - Galbi - is once again expertly cooked. It arguably has the nicest balance of mouthfeel / chew, being really tender, meaty, and the marinade gives it just a touch of sweetness to go with the mainly savory taste. Delicious! :blush:

Gwang Yang Bulgogi - Gangnam Style (Original Flavor) (Thin Slices of Lightly Marinated Beef):

This 3rd visit’s Bulgogi (Gangnam Style) was even better than our 1st visit: There was a more pronounced beefiness, a nice char and nice sweet-savory flavor coming through in each bite. :slight_smile:

One huge win for Gwang Yang BBQ is that their ventilation system is excellent: We didn’t smell like charcoal / Korean BBQ after eating there (3 times)! LOL. :smile: And their servers were on point making sure our meats were grilled to the proper doneness without forgetting about us (as some places have a tendency to do).

Gwang Yang BBQ was a huge surprise, delivering quality Korean BBQ and almost every cut was a hit (except the Beef Tongue). We couldn’t believe it, but at this point Gwang Yang BBQ was looking like it might just dethrone Park’s BBQ.

So off we went, along with our hardcore Korean friends to see just how Park’s BBQ compared…

Park’s BBQ (13th+ Visit)

We’ve lost count how many times we’ve been to Park’s BBQ but this visit marked at least our 13th+ visit. :slight_smile:

Complimentary Banchan:

It was immediately clear as we sat down and the stream of Banchan (Small Side Dishes) showed up: Park’s BBQ’s Banchan is vastly superior to Gwang Yang BBQ. There’s no competition. There’s a reason when someone asked on our board where there might be good Banchan, and @ipsedixit responded with Park’s BBQ. It might seem “odd” recommending a BBQ restaurant for that, but Park’s Banchan really are that fantastic. :slight_smile:

My favorite out of all the great ones was this incredible Beef Stew dish. Just look at how luscious this looks! (@PorkyBelly @bulavinaka) :slight_smile:

Park’s dipping condiments were similar to Gwang Yang, except that Gwang Yang also has this really tasty Dipping Sauce that tastes like an alternate version of their Short Rib Marinade (just a touch sweet, mainly savory).

Ggot Sal (“Ggot Sal is called the flower meat because of it’s perfect marbling. USDA Prime Beef.”):

First thing that was apparent was that Park’s BBQ’s portions are larger than Gwang Yang BBQ’s. It looked very similar in its marbling (both places serving USDA Prime Beef). Taking a bite…

It’s tender, but it’s chewier than Gwang Yang’s version! It also didn’t have as much of a subtle beefy flavor that Gwang Yang’s had. I couldn’t believe it. :confused: Our Korean friends agreed. Maybe it was an off day?

(NOTE: At this point, I’m being very nitpicky, because both places are delivering top quality Korean BBQ.)

It was still delicious, and we all enjoyed the Ggot Sal, but having just had Gwang Yang’s version, it was easy to do a comparison between the two on a more subtle level.

Pancake with Rock Shrimp and Green Onion:

Park’s Pajeon (Korean Savory Pancake) was crispier than Gwang Yang’s. It was also thinner (a good thing), but ultimately it was also pretty oily. :frowning: (Both places Pajeon are OK, but nothing outstanding.)

Gal-Bi (Non-Marinated Prime Beef Short Rib):

This was delicious! :blush: Probably the most tender of all of the cuts (outside Bulgogi), it still had enough body in each bite to give it a nice meaty mouthfeel. Dipping it in some of the Sesame Oil + Salt was a winning combination. :slight_smile:

When compared to Gwang Yang’s Gal-Bi? This was very close: Half of our table thought Gwang Yang’s was better (by just a touch), and the other half thought Park’s was better (but also just barely).

On a strange note you have to specifically ask for the Napa Cabbage Kimchi (usually the most common one served at many Korean restaurants). We didn’t remember having to do this in our previous visits.

14th+ Visit:

Complimentary Banchan:

It is utterly stupid how good Park’s BBQ’s complimentary Banchan are! :smile: Like this amazing Stewed Lotus Root! It’s lacquered in this gorgeous sauce that is sweet, yet deeply crave-worthy and pleasing. Outstanding! :heart:

Bulgogi (Thinly Sliced Beef Marinated in a Soy Based Sauce):

Park’s Bulgogi (Thin Sliced Beef Marinated in a Soy Based Sauce) is much sweeter than Gwang Yang’s version. Before Gwang Yang you wouldn’t think about this comparison, as Park’s Bulgogi was higher quality and tastier than most of the other places we tried around town, but now with the Gangnam Style Bulgogi at Gwang Yang, it’s just a more enjoyable version for us.

Natural Pork Belly (Non-Marinated Pork Belly):

(That is not an optical illusion: Park’s brings out some huge uncut Napa Cabbage Kimchi leaves to cook with this next dish. :smile:)

When you order any of the Pork Belly dishes at Park’s, they bring out some Kimchi to grill with the Pork. :slight_smile:

The result is that you get this incredible porky quality from the Grilled Pork Belly, but then accented by the spicy-tart qualities of the grilled, seared Napa Cabbage Kimchi. :blush: It is fantastic! Still one of my favorite Korean BBQ Pork executions in L.A. :heart:

15th+ Visit:

One of Park’s strengths is also its weakness (in this comparison), some nice chunks of Charcoal ready to be heated up for the meal:

Complimentary Banchan:

My favorite today was this Curried Potato dish. Nuanced, spicy, exotic, fragrant! :slight_smile:

Rib Eye Steak (USDA Prime Rib Eye):

Visually this looked amazing! Perfect char on the top and bottom of the Steak, but unlike Gwang Yang, they don’t grill the sides (as they cut it into smaller pieces). But it still looked a perfect medium rare.

However, it tasted like a chewy, bland piece of generic Steak! :sob: There was gristle running in this Rib Eye we got. It was also literally not seasoned at all.

Now of course, you can dab it in the Sea Salt, or the Sesame Oil, or the Spicy, Vinegared Dipping Sauce, or eat it with some Kimchi, etc. But none of those combinations helped this dish.

Everyone at the table was thoroughly disappointed (and shocked actually). In all of our visits, we had never ordered the Rib Eye before (it sounded kind of boring), and in taste? It was boring. As a Steak, it fell far short of the excellence of a great American Steakhouse preparation (like CUT). Obviously, not a fair comparison, so for Korean BBQ? We liked every other cut on Park’s menu (and Gwang Yang’s) over this dish. :frowning:

Ggot Sal (“Flower Meat” USDA Prime) - (Retry):

We all really liked the Ggot Sal at Park’s, but during this comparison to our disbelief, my favorite cut at Park’s was dethroned by Gwang Yang BBQ. We had to give it another shot to confirm our feelings and really make sure.

The Ggot Sal was a larger cut (per piece) than Gwang Yang BBQ’s version. And?

It was meaty, relatively tender, but it did not make us forget about Gwang Yang’s utter deliciousness. I could not believe it.

So we finished up, hopped in the car and drove down the street. Back-to-back, bang x bang, FTC-style! :wink:

Gwang Yang BBQ (4th Visit)

Complimentary Banchan:

The Banchan were fine, and this Seaweed one was my favorite from today’s selection, but Park’s was definitely better.

Charcoal:

Oh! Don’t forget to ask for Charcoal if you notice your grill doesn’t have any. On our 2nd visit, we noticed (too late) that our grill didn’t have any Charcoal underneath, but our other visits did have it. Just ask them for it if you notice it’s missing.

Prime Ggot Sal (Top Prime Chuck Flap):

Taking a bite, having just had Park’s BBQ’s version about 20 minutes earlier:

Gwang Yang’s Ggot Sal is more tender, there’s more beefiness coming through. There’s just more oomph and flavor in every bite. It is simply crave-worthy and SO GOOD! :heart:

@A5KOBE @PorkyBelly @bulavinaka and all our veteran FTC’ers, I don’t know how I’m typing this, but we all liked Gwang Yang’s Ggot Sal more than Park’s, definitely. :open_mouth:

After numerous visits and the final back-to-back bang x bang, the battle over who’s King of Korean BBQ in L.A. comes down to this (for us):

  • Park’s BBQ has superior Banchan (Small Side Dishes) (by far). They are some of my favorite versions in L.A.

  • Park’s Pork Belly dishes are outstanding, and better than the ones I had at Gwang Yang.

  • Park’s ventilation system needs an upgrade, because you smell like Korean BBQ / Charcoal after eating there. :slightly_frowning_face: (Compared to most other places Park’s ventilation is much better, but after Gwang Yang, there’s no comparison.)

  • Gwang Yang BBQ has superior Ggot Sal (my favorite cut), Bulgogi and Gal-Bi. I can’t believe I’m saying this.

  • Gwang Yang’s Rib Eye preparation is very good and full of flavor, far superior to Park’s.

  • Do not order the Beef Tongue at Gwang Yang, it is awful.

  • Gwang Yang has superior ventilation: Out of all 4 times we ate at Gwang Yang, we could still hang out and do stuff afterwards (and not smell like KBBQ!). :stuck_out_tongue:

  • Gwang Yang has less of a wait than Park’s.

Again, in the grand scheme of things (comparing to all of the Korean BBQ places we’ve tried around L.A.), Park’s BBQ is still so much better. It’s just that when you compare it with Gwang Yang BBQ, it’s like “#1” and “#1A,” but in this case Gwang Yang BBQ is probably my new favorite Korean BBQ in L.A., with their outstanding Ggot Sal, Gal-Bi, Bulgogi preparations and flavor, and less of a wait, more private dining rooms and clean air (so you don’t smell like Charcoal afterwards).

If we’re craving amazing Banchan with our KBBQ, more Pork, while still having some of the best Beef cuts in L.A., we’re going to Park’s.

Park’s BBQ
955 S. Vermont Ave. #G
Los Angeles, CA 90006

http://parksbbq.com/new/

Gwang Yang BBQ
3435 Wilshire Blvd. Suite 123
Los Angeles, CA 90010

(Free Parking with Validation in the Parking Garage underneath Gwang Yang (behind Zion Market))


#2

Great report as always.

Have you tried Ten-Raku?


#3

Hi @ipsedixit,

Thanks! :slight_smile: No I haven’t yet. What do you think of it? What are your recommended dishes there? Thanks.


#4

Totally agree Park’s banchan are just ridiculously good.

Park’s grilled kimchi is magical with that thick cut pork belly.


#5

Been meaning to try GY! Thanks for the review as always


#6

Kobe style prime rib, tongue, and the skirt steak for the Q.

The beef tartare for the non-cooks in us.

Of course the pan fried octopus, and the octopus fried rice to follow.


#7

Great report! Gotta try GY pronto. Something tells me the lines for GY are gonna start getting longer!


#8

Hi @JeetKuneBao,

Thanks. I hope you enjoy your visit. :slight_smile: (and maybe see if they finally started making that Korean dessert next door at Zion!)


#9

Has anyone ever done a bang bang w/ BBQ??? Impressive. :slight_smile:

Tried Park’s once many yrs ago. Enjoyed it but didn’t know if I thought it was worth the $. Will have to try GY. Do they cook it for you by default or only if you wave them over or are clearly struggling?


#10

I love Park’s BBQ, but personally always thought their kkot ssal was overrated. Too thin, lacking meaty flavor, better versions found at Gwang Yang and even Ahgassi Gopchang. My go to orders are the non-marinated kalbi and the pork belly.

I’m a big fan of GY’s pork belly also. Park’s BBQ had hands down the best pork belly when they had that Tokyo X version (with all that grilled kimchi), then the quality dipped for a while, but it’s picked back up in the past year. A waiter told me they switched up the sourcing.


#11

Kbbq bang bang… you’re on a different level.


#12

Hi @frommtron,

Thank you. Please report back about your meal, and hope you enjoy it as well. :slight_smile:


#13

HI @paranoidgarliclover,

Thanks! Gwang Yang cooks it for you by default. They also have the “doorbell” button on every table (found at most Korean restaurants), so you can also call over a server if you need anything, but in our 4 visits, the servers always grilled everything without us asking. :slight_smile:


#14

My view on Korean BBQ has always been that after the first few bites, it really becomes all about the overall mix of dishes, items, and flavors. That is because, to me at least, the ideal way to maximize meat is definitely not the way it is cooked at Korean bbq places. In recent months I had Park’s, Gwang Yang, and Oo-Kook. The meat at all three were basically pretty close to the same level. I thought what put Park’s ahead is (1) the superior banchan and (2) the superior side/a la carte dishes. They have an outstanding jap chae. Their cod dish is wonderful, as good as anywhere else in town doing it.

For the overall experience Park’s wins for me, but I can see on a given night Gwang Yang, Oo Kook, or even Kang Ho-Dong having a better meat dish or two.


#15

Let’s not pass over the utter importance of reservations, which means you’ll pretty much never find me at KHD or Quarters


#16

Hi @Haeldaur,

Thanks. Definitely agree that the mix of additional items (banchan, dipping sauces / condiments) helps break things up and enhance the eating experience. :slight_smile:

That being said, ultimately it is about the quality & taste of the meat, and having visited both places multiple times, including the back-to-back on the same day, Gwang Yang is definitely the better tasting place for Ggot Sal, Galbi and Bulgogi.

And both Park’s and Gwang Yang were so far ahead of Kang Ho Dong and Oo Kook (for us at least), that it wasn’t close, but your mileage may vary.


#17

To be fair one plate of prime meat at Park’s is about the same as 2 people doing AYCE Oo-Kook.


#18

I think we might be comparing apples to oranges here probably due to bad translations. The Ggot sal from Parks’s comes from the rib eye or short rib section while GY’s “ggot sal” is a chuck flap cut? Even in your pictures, the two ggot sal’s look nothing a like.


#19

Hi @Ns1,

I didn’t bring up Oo-Kook. Someone else did and claimed it was better.


#20

Oh. Yeah that’s just nonsense.