Friday, February 26, 2016

Magal BBQ (Los Angeles, CA)

Magal Korean BBQ Restaurant
3460 W 8th St, Los Angeles, CA 90005
Thu 02/26/2016, 07:35p-09:40p

Magal BBQ Exterior

One of the newest entrants to LA's ever-popular KBBQ scene debuted back on December 9th. Magal (short for MApo GALmaegi) is part of a chain that claims 500 locations worldwide, mostly in Korea, but also in Hong Kong, China, Thailand, Indonesia, and even Flushing, New York. As the name would imply, the place ostensibly specializes in galmaegisal (pork skirt meat), a bit of an uncommon sight here in the States but apparently a thing back in the Motherland.

Magal BBQ Interior
Unusually, Magal didn't take over the home of a former restaurant. Rather, it occupies the address previously held by a bookstore: Dong-A Book Plaza. Inside, things a cheery, convivial, and apparently quite close to what a popular KBBQ joint in Seoul might look like.

Magal BBQ Menu: Beef Magal BBQ Menu: Pork Magal BBQ Menu: Special Grilled | Special Menu | Skewers
Magal BBQ Menu: Meal Magal BBQ Menu: Lunch Special Magal BBQ Menu: Beverage | Dessert
As for the menu, the place does specialize in pork, though there's a complete beef selection too. Combos, of course, are offered in addition. There are also skewers, which you don't typically see, as well as the usual complement of accompanying dishes, and even injeolmi bingsu for dessert (though it didn't seem to be available this evening). Drink-wise, you get your typical Korean beer, soju, and other alcoholic beverages. Click for larger versions.

Magal Grill Setup
The grill setup. Apparently, Magal lays claims to the invention of the whole egg trough/moat thing that's been popularized around these parts by the likes of Kang Hodong Baekjeong.

Magal BBQ Condiments
Condiments included your usual ssamjang, garlic, salt & pepper, and chadol sauce.

The OB [$6.99] wasn't a bad interpretation of your everyday pale lager.

Baechu Kimchi
Baechu kimchi was about what you'd expect.

However, the mukbap was a surprise, a cold, refreshing sort of soup that you don't typically see all that often at KBBQ.

Special Pork Neck (Plated) Special Pork Neck
Special Pork Neck (Grilling) Special Pork Neck (Cooked)
Special Pork Neck [$21.99]
Our first meat was the mapo hangjeongsal, arguably my favorite cut at the moment. It was just what I wanted from the jowl: firm but yielding, with a bit of chew, and loaded with plenty of porky goodness. Nice touch of caramelization too.

2015 Jester King Bière De Blanc Du Bois
Next to drink was the 2015 Jester King Bière De Blanc Du Bois, a barrel-aged sour with Texas-grown Blanc du Bois wine grapes. It was a tasty one, with tart, vinous notes on the nose, and a taste that brought more of the same, along with a funky, dusty complexity that I enjoyed.

The salad was visually jarring with what I believe was a black sesame-laced dressing.

Bitter batons of pickled celery made for another uncommon banchan.

Kongnamul Muchim
I was a fan of the kongnamul muchim, with its crunch, spice, and countering zippiness from the green onion.

Mikkeller Spontanelderflower
The Mikkeller Spontanelderflower was a lambic-style beer brewed with elderflower and sea buckthorn. I wasn't terribly into this, as instead of the fruity, floral nuances typically associated with elderflower, I got loads of astringency from the buckthorn that didn't sit well with me.

Pork Skirtmeat (Plated) Pork Skirtmeat
Pork Skirtmeat (Grilling) Pork Skirtmeat (Cooked)
Pork Skirtmeat [$21.99]
Naturally, we had to try the restaurant's signature cut, the mapo galmaegi. I don't think I've ever encountered this before at KBBQ, and I must say that I found it almost beef-like in nature, with a sweetness underpinning the whole experience. Very tasty, and certainly worth trying if you haven't had it.

Soybean Paste Stew Made with Anchovy Broth, Fish, Clams, Summer Squash and Beef Brisket
Soybean Paste Stew Made with Anchovy Broth, Fish, Clams, Summer Squash and Beef Brisket [$7.99]
Chadol doenjang jjigae was quite good, showing more depth and more umami than most preparations, probably thanks to the incorporation of large amounts of seafood.

Eomuk Bokkeum
Eomuk bokkeum (fishcake) was on point, with a nice contribution from the bell peppers and sesame seeds.

2015 Calicoast Barrel Project: Sour Zinfandel
Our final bottle was the 2015 Calicoast Barrel Project: Sour Zinfandel, comprising Buzzerkeley pale ale aged in Zinfandel barrels for 6-8 months, with pomace and Brettanomyces added. It was another tasty wine-inspired beer: fruity, funky, and dry to the smell, with a vinous palate that showed off sour red fruit, mustiness, and oak.

Prime Beef Boneless Short Rib
Prime Beef Boneless Short Rib (Grilling) Prime Beef Boneless Short Rib (Cooked)
Prime Beef Boneless Short Rib [$31.99]
The nunkkotsal managed to be the sole grilled beef option tonight, and it didn't disappoint. Think juicy and tender, with a mix of sweet, bovine flavors well-matched to the garlic.

Steamed Beef Back Ribs in Large Bowl (Hot Spicy)
Steamed Beef Back Ribs in Large Bowl (Hot Spicy) [$24.99]
Our most substantial dish of the night came in the form of the maeun yangpun sogalbijjim, which had all the deep, dark, beefy notes you'd expect, perked up by a smidge of spice while the veggies gave some brightness. Yum.

Boneless Short Rib Sushi (Raw)
Boneless Short Rib Sushi (Blow Torching) Boneless Short Rib Sushi (Cooked)
Boneless Short Rib Sushi [$15.99]
Last up came the kkotsal bulchobap, one of the more unusual dishes on the menu. They actually did a nice job torching the meat, making for supple, slightly charred slices of beef that married well with the rice on the bottom. I could've used less sweetness on the sauce, though.

I left pretty impressed with Magal. Meat quality was right up there, while the sides and more composed dishes were of high quality as well. I actually wouldn't mind trying more of the menu. Another strong contender for the City's KBBQ pantheon I have to say.


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