Saturday, December 09, 2006
Beer Goggle Cuisine: Hodori, Koreatown
There are some types of restaurants that leave more of a stink factor on your clothing than others, Korean restaurants being one of them. It made sense, therefore, that because we were going with our friend to the Russell Peters show at the Wiltern in Koreatown, we would try our best to avoid restaurants having too much smoky cooking odor in the air. Not that we were sitting close enough to the comedian, best known for his hilarious imitations of various ethnic groups, to be called out for letting off too much stank, but we'd still have our reputations to uphold with hundreds of other audience members sitting around us.
I remembered that whenever we'd gone to Hodori, a popular late night Korean "fast-food" restaurant, with friends after hitting the bars, we never came out too smoky since everything's cooked in the back. And it was quick and cheap. So to the minimall on the corner of Vermont and Olympic it was.
It was weird to pre-party at Hodori, as I'm used to seeing the place bustling with tables of dressed-to-the-nines clubgoers in search of some cheap nourishment to soak up the over-inebriation in their bloodstreams. Instead, the place was only about an eighth full and pretty quiet when we arrived at 6pm, most of the customers being older Korean couples.
As excited as we were for our panchan to come to the table, we couldn't help but turn all of our attention to the "Stress Reduction Kit: Bang Head Here" sign (an image all of us have received in many an email forward) printed on the back of our waitress's t-shirt. But the bizarre mental images of people actually doing slamming their heads on the waitresses' backs soon turned into full attention towards the little plates of Korean amuse-bouches in front of us. The panchan--an on-the-limp side baechu (napa cabbage) kimchi, a decent kkak-duki (radish kimchi), refreshing bean sprouts, that bland-but-surprisingly addicting plain gelatin with soy sauce dish I've never known the name of, and a hearty Korean-style potato salad--was not anywhere near as plentiful as what we're used to in other Korean restaurants and not excellent, but nevertheless welcomed as we were starving. All of this was washed down with ice cold water served in steel bowls, the cool metal making the drink seem that much more refreshing.
when you can count the panchan on one hand, it's not enough
the widest "cup" i've ever seen
I ordered their kalbi dot sot bibim bap, a dish of rice, egg, vegetables such as marinated daikon, squash, carrots and bean sprouts, and pieces of kalbi short ribs sizzling in a stone pot. No matter where you go, any bibim bap order will come with gochujang, or Korean red pepper paste, inside a red squeeze bottle of what people not in the Korean know would mistake for ketchup. After squeezing a bajillion concentric circles of the deep red-colored sauce into the bowl and mixing all the ingredients together with my spoon, I was ready to dig in. Hodori's version was just allright, with a good amount of beef and vegetables, but lacked the right amount of smoky crispiness I love in a dol sot bibim bap. Somehow, I remember this dish, with its heat from temperature as well as from the gochujang, tasting alot better after a night of drinking.
kalbi dol sot bibim bap, aka alcohol sponge
The same was thought of the bulgogi, Korean BBQ'd beef, and the dak bulgogi, BBQ'd chicken, that Isaac and our friend ordered. The meats, usually full of smoky garlicky flavor when grilled tableside, arrived on sizzling plates looking and tasting quite bland. Another couple of dishes that usually taste a thousand times better post-bar or club.
no stanky clothes=bland korean bbq
beer goggles would make this bulgogi better
Outstanding Korean cuisine is not Hodori's strongpoint, that's for sure. But it's not like they don't have a niche in the Koreatown restaurant market as a late night attraction for those with a blood alcohol level at least a tenth or even to those still giddy with excitement from dancing, a fun night out with friends, or a laugh out loud comedy show in our case. The Happy Horomones are already there--good food is just secondary at that point, right? With its round-the-clock hours and healthy portions, Hodori is just a great place for them to settle down before going home. And you'll stink more of alcohol and cigarette smoke than you will of cooking fumes.
1001 S Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90006
For dessert, I'm throwing this clip in to give you an idea of the comedy that gave us our Happy Horomones that night. Take a peek: