Koreatown houses enough tabletop grills to heat the neighborhood in perpetuity, but the vast majority of metal is devoted to meat. Only recently did seafood start to grace charcoal grills. Flaming Clam Grill of Cheongdamdong opened my eyes to the type of oceanic onslaught that’s possible in L.A.’s Korean restaurants, and now that restaurant closed, Jae Bu Do has more than carried the torch for flame-licked seafood in my favorite eating neighborhood.
Yuchong Kim opened Jae Du Bo in 2009, naming their restaurant for a Korean island known for seafood. My meal with Street Gourmet LA founder Bill Esparza occurred more than a year after the neon crab claw waved to us from across the street during a dinner at Castle BBQ. The claws no longer light up, but the restaurant was still jam packed with people who dined en masse under stainless steel hoods. As we learned during our visit, Jae Du Bo is the restaurant where Jonathan Gold sang the praises of the hagfish, which he praised in inspired fashion for LA Weekly.
They had different levels of set menus. We went with the base A Set ($44.99), which was still enough to feed four people. We received sea scallops on the half shell with peppers and scallions; small clams that are done when they pop open on the grill; large clams that do the same; large shell-on shrimp; octopus tentacles slathered with gochujang (sweet-spicy chile sauce) that crisps up on the grill; mussels on the half-shell with peppers and scallions; a foil bowl filled with bay scallops, scallions, daikon and onion; a massive scissor-cut sea scallop with butter, sliced jalapeno, gochujang and onion; and large foil-wrapped oysters. Jae Du Bo posted a disclaimer on the wall that read, “Oysters may cause allergy in the constitution.” Maybe so, but these were good grilled oysters, so it would have been a shame to skip them.
We snagged seafood with chopsticks from every angle. The one thing we never got to were the foil wrapped potatoes that rested against the side of the charcoal, under the grill, but if one thing has to go to waste at a seafood house, it might as well be the starch.
Condiments included sesame leaves, raw garlic, onion, jalapeno and slabs of kimchi. Fermented bean paste joined raw vegetables, including mild, crunchy green peppers, carrots and cucumbers.
Our meal continued in earnest with a surprise bowl of ceviche submerged in chile sauce with scallions, onions, cabbage and both shrimp and snapper, which was almost surprisingly fresh considering the volume and value.
The eel’s available with sea salt, brushed with gochujang or both. The rosy fillets with skin on one side crisped up on the grill. It was pretty good, but not worth $30, especially given all the other food on the grill.
We easily over-consumed by at least 300%. Esparza’s already been back to Jae Du Bo, limited his intake to the mixed grill, eliminated the eel, and brought reinforcements. That sounds about right. Given that amount of food, Jae Du Bo would easily be one of the best seafood deals in Los Angeles.