While Korean BBQ is probably the most popular cuisine from Korea, it usually makes you think of hot open flames searing Beef Ribs, Thin-Sliced Marinated Pork and a variety of other cuts from the cow and pig. So when one of our dear friends mentioned a Korean Seafood BBQ restaurant, that served nothing but Seafood to grill, that caught our interest.
Jae Bu Do (technically “Jae Bu Do 2” since this is the 2nd branch of Jae Bu Do (also in Koreatown)) has all the trappings of a busy “Korean BBQ” restaurant: There is smoke billowing out of the door, you can smell the Mesquite Charcoal well before you even reach the entrance.
But it smells different, since there’s no Beef / Pork Fat searing away, it is the unmistakable ocean scent mixed in with the mesquite smoke. There are Live Seafood tanks on display showing Abalone, Lobster and a few other offerings.
Yes, we were asking for it, LOL. I implored us not to order flavored Soju, but I was outvoted. This Peach Soju tasted like Robitussin Cough Syrup, LOL.
Their complimentary Banchan (little appetizers before the meal) are sparse compared to most KBBQ places, with only 4 items. Their Kimchi is the fresh-type, barely fermented:
The Korean Pancake is tasty, slightly crisped, but rather basic:
Their Steamed Egg is overcooked:
There’s a strange Creamed Corn dish that is sweet and creamy, but not something we’d go out of our way for:
At Jae Bu Do you can order one of three different Set Menus, with each Set (A, B, C) increasing in price and quantity. Our friend who took us said the “B Set” ($84.99) can feed 5 - 6 people easily.
A Set (Oyster, Shrimp, Large Clams, Manila Clams, Baby Octopus, Pink Scallops, Mosi Clams, Pasta Neck Clams, Mussel, Sweet Potato, Potato) + Abalone (Extra):
What arrives is a gargantuan tray filled with Seafood (raw) ready to be cooked on the Mesquite Charcoal Grill.
Tilapia + Shrimp Sashimi:
The waitress mentions that this “Sashimi” dish is part of the A Set meal as well, what she called “Sashimi,” which consists of Raw Tilapia (ugh) and Raw Shrimp. This turns out to be more like a Ceviche, with the seafood “cooking” in Citric Acid and Korean spices.
We were hesitant eating Raw Tilapia (not the best type of Fish to eat in general, let alone raw), but it tasted fine. It was sour, lightly spicy and salty.
Jae Bu Do is mostly “server-driven cooking,” meaning like many of the nicer places in K-Town, the servers will actually cook the food for you on the open grill (vs. you doing it yourself).
Grilled Clams (Large Clams, Manila Clams, Pasta Neck Clams, Mosi Clams):
Of the variety of Clams being grilled on the Mesquite Grill, our favorite were the Manila Clams. They provide a type of Ssamjang (Soy Bean Paste with Garlic and other seasonings) to dip the Seafood in, as well as Gochujang. After trying out both Sauces, I preferred eating the Grilled Seafood plain (naturally seasoned by the salt water of the ocean) or with a tiny dab of the Soy Bean Paste with Garlic.
The Mussels grilled on the open flame were slightly creamy, briny and delicious.
You can add additional Seafood items to each set, a la carte (they have Live Lobster, Sea Urchin, Sea Cucumber, Live Squirt, etc. as well). They were sold out / didn’t get a shipment for most of their a la carte menu, sadly, but we added the Live Abalone.
The waitress made sure to check periodically and let us know when the Abalone was ready. It was perfectly cooked through, tender, moist, but still meaty with some firmness. They were delicious!
Their Oysters came out surprisingly perfectly-cooked as well. Lightly briny, moist and with the right amount of salinity from its own natural juices. But it tasted like “Cooked Oysters,” nothing more.
Their Grilled Octopus was marinated in Gojuchang Sauce, and had a slight chewiness, slightly sweet and spicy.
In some Korean specialty restaurants, they end the meal with a “Fried Rice” of sorts, reducing the remaining essence / juices of whatever protein cooking it with Rice, Kimchi and seasonings. It’s usually the highlight of the meal (e.g., Mirak’s delicious Korean Black Goat Fried RIce - So Good! ).
With Korean Seafood BBQ, there’s not really any leftover soup / essence to work with, so they bring out a giant pot of Seafood Broth and Thick Noodles:
That pot of Noodles alone could feed 3 people, let alone all the seafood we had before, LOL.
Flavor-wise, it’s just OK. It tastes like a light Seafood Broth, ocean-y, Salt & Pepper and Green Onions. It’s rather basic, and sort of plain.
At this point (by the end of the meal), the waitress lifts up the grill and draws out the foil-wrapped Sweet Potato and regular Potato that have been slowly cooking on the edges of the Mesquite Charcoal for the duration of the meal. They are cooked through and ready to eat:
The Sweet Potato, while inherently sweet, is rather plain. It tastes like you were eating a slice of Oven-Roasted Sweet Potato (no Mesquite flavor since it was wrapped in foil). It’s not that tasty actually.
Their regular Potato was better:
Even though there was no added flavor (no butter, no salt or anything), it tasted like a fluffy, soft, Baked Potato.
In the end, Jae Bu Do is a unique experience for those looking for something beyond the usual Korean BBQ dinner. Instead of Beef, Pork or Chicken, you have a menu comprised completely of Seafood, grilled over Mesquite Charcoal. However, thinking back on it, it tastes merely OK. It’s not bad, but for all the “Korean BBQ” / grilling that’s happening, the outer shell on most of the Seafood means that the Mesquite flavor really doesn’t permeate.
So you’re eating “Cooked Seafood,” plain.
The two dipping sauces overpower the delicate Seafood, so it’s better to eat it plain and enjoy the natural flavors. But by doing that, it doesn’t really make it stand out. The Grilled Clams, Oysters, Mussels, etc. are fine, but nothing about them screams “Korean Seafood BBQ” or has any special Korean cuisine flavor profile.
I like Seafood in general, but I didn’t feel the need to return. Still it’s something worth trying once and seeing if you prefer the break from the usual fatty meat-heavy Korean BBQ experience.
Open until 2:00 a.m., 7 Days A Week.
Jae Bu Do 2
3916 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90010
Tel: (213) 568-3179
Jae Bu Do
474 N. Western Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Tel: (323) 467-2900