It was a lazy ass Wednesday evening and I had been in bed for the most part of it. I had gotten up in the wee hours of the morning with a throbbing fever. It had been a long day consisting of early rising farmers markets and a heavy, unpleasant lunch. But where I would of probably stayed in, only to probably fall sicker....the homie Mattatouille gives me a call. And an hour later I was up and ready to go.
A visit to this Korean spot I had seen on his blog was long overdue, and I was going to go whether I was miserable or not. Especially, since he just realized his vital Korean food credentials. It was time to respect Mattatouille's authority...
Mapo Kak Du Gee Jip
Of course, it wouldn't be a dinner with the Glutster without arriving 25 minutes late. But my failed punctuality that day was quickly forgotten as the assortment of colorful banchan started rolling out on to the table.
Banchan At Mapo
This is what I look forward to whenever I am on my way to any Korean restaurant, taste-whetting restaurant hospitality at its finest. The signature banchan (the restaurant is named after it) is kak du gee, chunks of raw daikon radish that is fermented until funky, crisp acidic joy. The rest of the sweet and spicy array included things like Mook (a bland solid jelly made out of acorns), in a vinegary dressing, sweet seaweed salad, cooked greens of both a savory, white pepper flavor variety and a sweet, sesame leaf flavor one. There was also pickled, crunchy cucumber and chewy fishcakes in red chili paste. And of course the essentials: a zippy, well aged Kimchi made out of baby napa cabbage and the L.A K-town exclusive of a miracle-whip enhanced potato salad.
Good thing we came with Matt and his innate Korean food ordering skills.
Kimchi Jjigae: Served Boiling
A bubbling hot kimchi soup was served first. In a clay bowl, its broth was deep, rich and heavy on the umami factor, suggesting of maybe beef or pork tallow used. It was brimming with tender pieces of kimchi, soft tofu and chewy oval shaped rice cakes. All the better to soak up that luscious broth.
Ee Myun Soo Gui
No one could tell what kind of fish this was but it didn't really matter as we all took the first bite. "G.B and D" in its truest sense of the word! Juicy, light and meaty. It was not hard to eat these with chopsticks like other more fragile fish.
Korean Purple Rice
An honorable mention has to go out for the bombski purple rice that complemented all this spicy Korean deliciousness. It was chewy, wholesome and satisfying.
Yook Heh Jang: I Wasn't Going To Wait Until It Got Cold!
There was no chance I was going to miss out on what was described by Matt as his "death bed" meal. Spicy beef broth, yam starch-vermicelli noodles, long roots, green onion and tender brisket all braised 'till sublimity . First taste has you with its tasty spices, a mixture of peppers and garlic for sure. Matt instructed us on how he used to eat it, scooping in some rice and letting it soak up all the juices first.
Just as I finished the last spoonful of the kimchi broth, I noticed that my fever was no longer bothering me. This was truly Seoul food that was good for the soul! ha ha.
Thanks to Kyoung Sun Lee--the proud owner of Mapo--for her generosity. She would simply not allow neither of us to pay or tip anything, she says that business has been absolutely great since her feature on Saveur Magazine and the L.A Times Review. I'm sure it didn't hurt that Matt had been here at least 8 times this month too. According to The Times piece, the part of Korea that she is from (Gyeonggi) is known for having signature banchan of a certain slightly dry, clean spiciness.
I hear another must-order item here is the black cod stew, not to mention her lunch specials that include things like hand-cut noodles or bibimbap for $5.99, and of course...all of that wonderful banchan! Damn, I'm lagging it!
Kyoung Sun Lee: Representin' Gyeonggi Right!
Mapo Kak Du Gee Jip
3611 W 6th St
Los Angeles, CA 90020
$12-15 Per Person (if you go all out, ha ha)