The original Hamjipark isn't in Koreatown, but remains one of L.A.'s best Korean restaurants.
The more popular Hamjipark resides on 6th Street at Koreatown’s core, and the second generation operates the glass fronted space with a brighter polish. Owner Hwa Shin Kim’s original Hamjipark restaurant dates to 1993 and rests on a more desolate stretch of storefronts, southwest of the high-density neighborhood, with a rougher look, but the food is just as satisfying.
A pig statue in a sheriff’s outfit stands sentinel at the entrance, and three little pigs see no evil, hear no evil, and oink no evil. Hwa Shin Kim clearly appreciates pigs.
Banchan consisted of pink pickled onion, cauliflower and cucumber; crunchy bean sprouts; green pepper and eggplant; chile’d radish; gochujang’d daikon with so much acidity it was practically carbonated; and pungent kimchi sheets.
Hamjipark’s best dishes contain pork. That was definitely the case with the famed Pork Spare Ribs ($16.99), a heaping pile of flap-attached ribs, marinated in gochujang, served on a sizzling platter with a bed of onions, sprinkled with sesame seeds and scallions.
Kimchi Spicy Stew ($10.99) arrived in a bubbling cauldron containing scallions, pungent fermented cabbage sheets, scallions, creamy tofu slabs, and best of all, striated chunks of gochujang infused pork belly rife with fat and spice.
Kimchi Rice in a Sizzling Stone Bowl ($9.99), aka bibimbap, sported pungent, well marinated nubs of pork, pungent kimchi and more. The rice formed a crisp crust closest to the bowl, which peels off after vigorous scraping, with rewarding texture.
Pan Broiled Beef Tripe with Vegetables ($19.99) was the only misfire, a massive serving of small intestine definitely brought the funk, joining large, squishy honeycomb tripe swaths in the bowl.
Hamjipark cooks slathered spicy, slightly sweet gochujang over offal and vegetables like sweet onions, sliced mushrooms, zucchini and red pepper strips. This is a pretty common preparation in K-Town, and it tends to work better with ingredients like octopus or squid.
The original Hamjipark might not have the shine of its younger sibling, but they still bring the sizzle, and for down home Korean dining, remains one of L.A.’s better options.