Korean birthday feasting

Hello. I’m planning a birthday weekend in LA next month based largely around korean food. Well I’m hoping for 3 meals: korean bbq for the main celebration, and then just trying to fit in my favorites where and if I can, but probably noodles/mandu, and then maybe bossam, maybe Chinese-Korean. I’m starting my homework and I’m just a little bit familiar with ktown already. But I have questions…,

BBQ For a Friday or Saturday night party of 7-10 people: PARK’S, GENWA, or…? I’ve been to parks several times and I’ve never had a complaint about the quality of the meat, but I’ve had to request kimchi before (!!!) and seen other signs of getting different treatment from Koreans. I’m part korean but the others in my party are not at all. I also always have to ask for ssamjang, lettuce, garlic, etc. I think I’ve noticed less panchan than served to other, obviously korean patrons.

So I thought maybe try somewhere else? I’m getting some resistance to this idea. “Parks is really the best,” I hear from some LA friends, and others from here (I’m in San Francisco) have been to Parks and remember it fondly. Should I stick with it? Are they starting to care more about the celebrities than the overall quality of food and service?

Genwa seems to have tons of panchan and we can splurge on quality meat if we want, right? Is there charcoal? Parks has charcoal over gas flames, am I correct? My usual preferences for meats are not unique: marinated galbi and unseasoned pork belly. But I do like pork neck, jowl, etc, and I get the korean and English terms mixed up for beef cuts, but thicker, well marbled cuts from the rib section. I do not really care for chadolbaegi, or the other thinly shaved cuts, except maybe tongue. I like smelling like a campfire and charcoal would be nice, as in my hazy memory of charcoal at parks over gas flames. It’s been awhile. I thought of soot bull jeep, but wonder if I want something a little nicer for this occasion. But meat quality is far more important to me for this meal than charcoal, which seems to have fallen out of favor in general (?)

Please, any thoughts on the pros and cons of parks vs genwa would be greatly appreciated.

I love Yu chun and try to go whenever I’m in LA. Not just for the naengmyun but also for their kimchi mandu. Should I stick to this for a lunch, or is there another great option for naengmyun, or should I be thinking about kong guksu or other cold noodles?

I also want to go to kobawoo for bossam. Problem is I have too many friends that use the phrase “too much” in the same breath as “pork belly,” and are a little bit timid with certain textures. If a bite or two is all some can handle, what else at kobawoo do you recommend so they can be happy while I devour my pork? They all like the rest of what I see on the menu. Pancakes, bibimbap, etc.

I might also try to get my Chinese korean fix. I’ve been to zzamong and I liked it. I prefer gan jjajangmyun to the usual kind, and I don’t like soft noodles. I remember zzamong being pretty good, definitely better than what we have in SF or Oakland. But any other recommendations?

Thanks for taking the time to read all this. I may not hit all these, as there is so much to eat in LA. Every time i visit I leave realizing I’ve somehow neglected to eat Mexican food, for example. I’m always focused on korean or on dim sum, which is the OTHER thing I’m researching for the same brief trip! (I may be staying in town longer than my friends to fit all this in). Again thanks in advance for any advice!


Park’s is reigning champ for me. There panchan all tastes great and their kimchee is my favorite. Genwa has really good bibimbap and a lot of variety of panchan. But Park’s is better quality, all taste great and some really addictive. Genwa has better ventilation if that matters. Park’s definitely has better meat quality.

I vote Park’s. It is the full package and a party of your size, you can make reservations.

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Happy (early) Birthday!

Park’s meat is a tad better than Genwa’s, but not by much. Also important is that Genwa’s banchan game is strong.

In addition, consider Kang Ho-dong Baekjeong or a private room at Gwang Yang

Wherever you guys end up, enjoy! (And please report back!)

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I’d say don’t miss Jun Won for your non bbq visit.


What about jokbal?


Kang Ho-dong Baekjong is good but I’d eliminate it only because of your party size. Park’s takes reservations and is great. I’ve never been to Gwang Yang but lots of good reports on this place.

If it’s still warm out consider Corner Place for dongchimi or YuChun for naenygmyun.

When we go out for Korean, it’s usually not for bbq, but I highly recommend Genwa nevertheless, especially if you want lots of banchan. It’s just a great all-around Korean restaurant.

That said, Park’s definitely has better bbq.

Park’s or GY would be my choice, both use charcoal in their grill for beef. Park’s has a bit more banchan variety though.

If you’re thinking about going the Kanghodong route, consider Ahgassi instead. The meat quality is the same (they source from the same place), and all you’ll be missing out on is the corn cheese in the grill.

And one last note about Korean patrons being treated better. I’m Korean, and even I have to ask for ssam jang, garlic, etc. The difference is that we know we have to ask for it and have no conscience at all about asking for banchan refills. There are many who don’t know or realize they have to ask. Trust me, in my experience, these big BBQ houses very much care about treating non-Koreans well, it’s how they expand their clientele beyond the obvious.


and Aghassi has all the offal

i can ask for this at any kbbq? also how do i ask for the wrapping leaves, whether sesame or not… and the green peppers… because koreans get it and i dont.

Ombu Grill

Generally, wrapping leaves are items that are supposed to be ordered if they have them. Green peppers (usually chopped) are free, and they’re usually the first things I ask for along with sliced garlic, bean paste (or ssam jang), and sesame oil for my salt dip. Also, as noted by the first poster, sometimes you actually do need to ask for red kimchi to get it.

All restaurants of course vary in terms of what they give out for free. For instance, if you order a ton of food at Ahgassi, they will probably give you another egg stew for free if you ask nicely. Soot Bull Jeep offers free lettuce wrap. Many places substitute a lettuce or scallion mix instead of having the lettuce wraps (Ahgassi, Parks, etc). Park’s has a specific kimchi that’s supposed to be cooked with the pork belly and a scallion mix if you request it.

But yes, by all means ask for garlic, green peppers (gochu), sesame oil, and bean paste/ssam jang when at a KBBQ restaurant, ask for as much as you want. And also ask if there are any additional side dishes, like red kimchi, etc.

Seriously? I’m not sure I’ve ever been served banchan that didn’t include at least two kinds of kimchi.

Most do, occasionally they don’t. Original post said they had to request it from Park’s and I’ve had to as well. I definitely have to request it from Ahgassi (and their red kimchi is pretty solid), but they do give you the water kimchi automatically.

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Isn’t jokbal included in the wang bossam platter at kobawoo? I was thinking about jokbal, too. Thanks for the tip

I was thrown when it happened. I was waiting for it to come to the table until it obviously wasn’t. Technically there WAS kimchi on the table but it was aged stuff that had been stewed, pan fried or something. Like a panchan size serving of dry kimchi chigae. Whether it’s still pretty fresh or aged and sour, there should be…you know…kimchi! that hasn’t been cooked into something else.

I think even Gwang didn’t serve red kimchi. There are others too that i’m blanking on

I ended up going to park’s Saturday night with a party of eight. I made a reservation, and we were seated upstairs in a private room, which was great because there was a toddler and an infant in tow.

It did not disappoint. The meal was uniformly excellent, as was service. For bbq we had two orders of park’s house galbi, the wagyu ggotsal, the unseasoned pork belly, pork neck, and beef tongue. My first time with their wagyu. It was lovely beef, but I don’t think I would miss it in the future, honestly. I just felt the overall quality of the less premium cuts was more than satisfactory, and that did seem to be the consensus. To be fair, it was my birthday celebration dinner so I had the privilege of comparing without paying!

My earlier fears about standards dropping at park’s were totally unfounded. And yes, there was kimchi, glorious plain red kimchi brought without needing to be asked for with the panchan, which were all well executed and some rather unique, like dressed coarse nori flakes, I think, and cilantro cooked and served as namul. I asked for ssamjang and the works, and plenty of it came, thinly slivered garlic, fresh lettuce, perilla, green chili, etc. more kimchi was thrown on the grill with the pork, which I’m not sure if I remember having done here before. Pork and kimchi are best friends!

We also enjoyed the yukhoe, or korean tartare. Couple of eh pancakes and overly sweet bibimnaeng myun. I still have a couple days left, so I hope I can squeeze in a last korean meal at yuchun for naengmyun. But overall, pretty much exactly what I wanted, and everyone else enjoyed it, too. “Best korean bbq meal of my life,” one of my friends said more than once.

So an all korean weekend didn’t happen, and the bossam got the axe until next trip down, but Friday night I did squeeze in Sun Nong Dan for a late dinner after the drive down from SF. Super tired from the road, lack of sleep, and nightmare coordinating meeting up with confused drunk friends, this meal didn’t get it’s due diligence. The medium spicy galbi jjim was impressive, imposing, and deserves a repeat in the future. We forgot to order it with the cheese and couldn’t be bothered to say anything about it when we were finally seated and served. So no flashy Instagram lava torch videos, and I’m sure our systems were grateful for the oversight the next day. It was very good, and both the option of having it spicy and with chewy dduk rice cakes was a first for me.

Anyways thank you all for your input. Like I said I hope to squeeze in one last korean meal, but if not I don’t need much of an excuse to nudge me back down to LA.


Thanks for the report.

Funny thing about Parks. My better half has to host her company “retreat” in LA, usually every September, and it involves a dinner for about 30-40 on a Sat night. Obviously this takes some planning and usually a deposit, fixed menu etc. I suggested Parks upstairs this year.
So she called and simply made the reservation with her name and call back phone number - no deposit, no fixed menu, no problem. She was shocked - so much so that she had to call them back to verify it was for real and not a mistake! It was for real.

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Park’s never disappoints for me. And even with a bunch of new players in town, they’re still always my go to for premium kbbq.

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