Thursday, April 09, 2015

Eight Korean BBQ (Los Angeles, CA)

Palsaik Korean BBQ
863 S Western Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90005
Thu 04/09/2015, 07:30p-09:15p

Eight Korean BBQ Exterior

One of the more unique KBBQ joints in town is no doubt Eight, which opened in summer 2011 as Palsaik (they changed their name in late 2013, presumably to attract a larger clientele). The original moniker translates to "eight colors," and indeed, the conceit here is that the restaurant specializes in eight different flavors of samgyupsal. Eight is a branch of a vast chain of pork belly specialists, with dozens of locations in Korea, three in Malaysia, one in Singapore, and another SoCal outlet down in Buena Park.

Eight Korean BBQ
Inside, the vibe is clean, sleek for KBBQ, with perhaps the most interesting design detail being those oil drum-looking stools (which cleverly open up for storage).

Eight Korean BBQ Menu: Signature Pork Combo Eight Korean BBQ Menu: Prime Beef Choice, Cold Noodles, Side Order Eight Korean BBQ Menu: Lunch Specials Eight Korean BBQ Beverage List
The main unit of consumption here is obviously the set of eight flavors, though each variety is available separately too. There are also a few additional pork selections, a couple requisite beef options, and some sides. To drink, you get your typical selection of Korean booze. Corkage is $15, though we weren't charged for our bottles this evening (possibly because we were discreet). Click for larger versions.

Palsaik Slanted Grill
The grills here are unique, slanted to one side in order to let the pork juices flow into waiting mounds of kongnamul and good ol' baechu kimchi.

Macaroni Salad
Other banchan included this light, subtly sweet 'n tangy macaroni salad.

Yangpa Jangajji & Gochu Jangajji
My favorite were the yangpa jangajji and gochu jangajji, or soy sauce-pickled onions and jalapeños.

Ssamjang was provided, natch.

Violet disks of pickled mu (daikon) were crunchy and refreshingly tart.

Lettuce Salad
The requisite lettuce salad, to provide that much needed touch of lightness to the meal.

And lastly, some watery mul kimchi.

2012 Panil Barriquée
We BYOB'd it and got started with a sour, the 2012 Panil Barriquée. A cognac barrel-aged Flanders Red, this one was quite to my liking. I noted lots of oaky, earthy funkiness in the beer, joined by flavors of dark fruit and a pointed sourness.

8 Flavors of Pork Belly Combo 8 Flavors of Pork Belly Combo
8 Flavors of Pork Belly Combo [$49.99]
Naturally, we had to taste the rainbow and started with Palsaik's signature (and oft photographed) 8 Flavors of Pork Belly, which includes Seafood Soybean Stew, Mushrooms, Vegetable, Kimchi, Bean Sprouts, Mixed Salad, and Fried Rice.

First Set: Fresh on the Grill
First Set: Flipped Over
The slabs of pork belly are grilled for you, four at a time, starting with the mildest-flavored examples.

Red Wine
First up was the Red Wine, which had some very slight wine-y undertones, being otherwise typically porky. Not bad, though I wouldn't have identified this as being marinated in wine if you didn't tell me.

The Original was just what you'd expect, giving up a pronounced porcine presence tempered by a lovely touch of char. Can't go wrong with the O.G.

Seafood Soybean Stew
Along with the belly came the haemul doenjang jjigae. This had some nice depth to it, with the ocean-y essence of the seafood augmented by the earthiness of soybean paste as well as the spicy underpinning of the stew. Hot and hearty.

Ginseng, meanwhile, showed off a medicinal sort of bitterness toward the midpalate.

Garlic was my favorite of the first foursome, with the zesty notes of the maneul marinade doing a great job complementing the natural flavors of the pork.

2010 AleSmith Decadence 2010 English Style Old Ale
The oldest beer tonight was the 2010 AleSmith Decadence English Style Old Ale, an unabashedly malty tipple loaded with notes of dark fruit and a discernible spice. Still quite youthful despite its age.

Second Set: Fresh on the Grill
Second Set: Flipped Over
At this point, the second, more vibrantly colored set of pork bellies hit the grill.

The Herb arrived super herby indeed, with tons of what I believe was rosemary. A very "Western" tasting example.

Curry worked pretty well, presenting the aromatics of a curry powder that you might find in Singapore-style noodles.

Kimchi Bokkeumbap: Fresh Rice
Kimchi Bokkeumbap: Done
With the jjigae all drunk up, our server proceeded to whip up some kimchi bokkeumbap with the dregs. It was a fine example, though I would've liked some more nurungji to mix things up texturally.

Miso Paste
My overall favorite just might've been the Miso Paste version. The inclusion of doenjang here provided a great depth of flavor that really heightened the intrinsic goodness of the samgyupsal.

Red Pepper Paste
Last up was the Red Pepper Paste, which also made sense, the gochujang giving up a palpable, though not overwhelming heat to complement the pork.

2014 Perennial Regalia
And now for something lighter, the next beer was the 2014 Perennial Regalia, a farmhouse-style saison brewed with barley, wheat, and spelt and fermented with Brettanomyces. Some lovely sweet, fruity, citrusy notes on this one, all underscored by the funky, yeasty backbone of the beer. Very nice.

Pork Jowl: Plated
Pork Jowl: On the Grill
Pork Jowl: Cooked
Pork Jowl [$23.99]
With the combo all eaten up, we moved on to the hangjunsal, a deeply-flavored presentation of jowl with a satisfying texture and well-placed bit of charring.

Prime Korean Style Boneless Rib: Plated
Prime Korean Style Boneless Rib: On the Grill
Prime Korean Style Boneless Rib: Cooked
Prime Korean Style Boneless Rib [$39.99]
Moving on to beef, kkotsal was super tender and super juicy, with a delicate flavor profile.

2013 Brooklyn Silver Anniversary Lager
The final beer came in the form of the 2013 Brooklyn Silver Anniversary Lager, produced two years ago to celebrate the brewery's 25th anniversary. A special doppelbock version of the original lager the company introduced in 1988, this one was quite lovely, with a great base of dark fruit, caramel, and malt nuances joined by a countervailing hoppiness and spice.

Prime Beef Brisket: Plated
Prime Beef Brisket: On the Grill
Prime Beef Brisket: Cooked
Prime Beef Brisket [$23.99]
Last up was the chadol, our traditional opening meat. Palsaik's was a pretty prototypical example, thinly-sliced, tender, with an apparent beefy quality to it.

No dessert was served, so we sufficed with some kyung dan from Happy Rice Cake House a few doors down.

The concept behind Eight/Palsaik is a bit gimmicky, but the food actually delivers for the most part. The eight flavors of belly are distinct enough and generally tasty, though some preparations do work better than others. Meanwhile, the quality of the non-samgyupsal cuts appears to be on point as well, and the service wasn't lacking either. We all left pretty happy with the place.

Sul & Beans Exterior
Due to the lack of real dessert, we headed on over to Sul & Beans following the meal.

Sul & Beans Interior
Opened in October 2014, Sul & Beans is, of course, a dessert cafe specializing in bingsoo, Korean-style shaved ice.

Sul & Beans Menu
Above we see the menu, featuring various types of bingsoo along with toasts and beverages. Click for a larger version.

Injeolmi Bingsoo
Injeolmi Bingsoo [$7.95]
We started with the signature injeolmi variety. This was good, real good, coming out nutty and sweet, with a wonderfully gratifying mouthfeel from the powder. Fantastic crunch provided by the dried jujubes as well, and just very well put together overall. Probably the best bingsoo I've had.

Sweet Rice Punch
Sweet Rice Punch [$3.45]
Sikhye was as sweet and as ricey as you'd expect.

Black Sesame Bingsoo
Black Sesame Bingsoo [$8.95]
The black sesame patbingsu also delivered in a big way, with the nutty essence of the chamkkae beautifully matched to the sugariness of red bean. And again, excellent crunch from the daechu as well. I liked this quite a bit more than Okrumong's.

2013 Hangar 24 Barrel Roll No. 3 Pugachev's Cobra
We also made sure to finish the last beer I had on me, the 2013 Hangar 24 Barrel Roll No. 3 Pugachev's Cobra, an imperial stout brewed with maple syrup and aged eight months in bourbon barrels. It was a classic BBA stout, teeming with a bouquet redolent of coffee, chocolate, and dark fruit, while tasting of more dark fruit and coffee, malt, and bourbon character.


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