LaOn Dining [CLOSED]

Korean Food Los Angeles


Park’s Barbeque may be the pinnacle of Korean beef barbecue in L.A., but that restaurant and pork-centric Don Don Gam apparently weren’t enough for chef Jenee Kim, who opened LaOn Dining adjacent to Don Dae Gam on June 1. The name, which translates from Korean as “enjoyable,” lived up to the billing, specializing in updated versions of dishes found during Korea’s Chosun Dynasty, which lasted from 1392 – 1897. After eating Chef Kim’s versions of her country’s classics, it was understandable why Chosun had so much longevity. More than that, it seemed like LaOn’s arrival could potentially mark the beginning of a new era in modern Koreatown dining.


The interior featured a wine wall and communal marble table near the entrance, along with other convivial seating, playful decor, plentiful flora and glass bubble chandeliers.

My table of seven people ordered more than 15 dishes, which Chef Kim divided into two primary categories: Yori (cooked) and Hwa Ro (DIY charcoal). The plates arrived in waves, so it was hard to keep up with the flavors, let alone photos, but it was fun to try.


We ate a lightly dressed mixed green House Salad ($5) with carrot and red cabbage strands before moving on to grape-sized, salt-baked Fingerlings ($6) with somewhat spicy green bell pepper-green peppercorn sauce. Sheets of chile-soaked kimchi and small, sweet pickled cucumber had their back.


Seven Wrap ($7) was a fun play on DIY “tacos” with pickled daikon “tortillas” as the base, along with piles of beef, egg, shiitake mushrooms, cucumber, cabbage and carrot strands, all wrap-able and dip-able in an umami rich sauce.


Open Flame Abalone (MP) appeared on the half shell in tender sheets along with roasted ginkgo nuts.


One of the most impressive dishes was Beef Tartare ($9), which of course involved premium diced beef. After all, this is the same chef who owns Park’s. The fashionable (and vertical) starter also included daikon, julienne scallions and raw quail eggs. Eating each tower took only two bites.


Our parade of grilled items began with Assorted Sausages ($6), all beef and none made in-house. The selection changes regularly and came with a sweet-spicy honey mustard dipping sauce.


Lean, thin-sliced Raw Beef Tongue ($8), well-marbled Seasoned Skirt Steak ($12) and rosy Seasoned Boneless Short Rib ($10) all appeared simultaneously.


Beef tongue cooked quickly on a tabletop charcoal grill (the hwa ro) and tasted great when dipped in salted lemon juice. Sliced red onion and cilantro were additional accompaniments.


Skewered Ginkgo nuts ($4) were firm, like raw almonds, and supposedly benefited our health.


Seasonal Mushrooms ($6) and Seasonal Vegetables ($6) helped to balance our primarily meaty meal, but they were also kind of plain. Maybe we would have been better off adding seasoned seafood instead of fibrous vegetables and raw fungi.


Glutinous, pleasantly chewy strips of rice cake arrived with julienne vegetables, egg strands, beef and a judicious amount of sesame oil, forming a light, satisfying dish. Along the same lines, we also ordered Spicy Pork, Rice Cake Skewer ($4), which featured a similar texture and some slight heat from the application of gochujang, Korean chile paste.


Jeon is the word for egg battering ingredients. Today’s Jeon ($10) changes – you guessed it – daily. We received flaky sheets of lightly battered halibut and similarly dressed vegetables.


Chef Kim wok seared Wagyu Beef Fritters ($12), which sported a light, crispy batter that yielded to reveal ground beef that practically melted.


Stone Pot Roe Rice ($12) was an especially dazzling interpretation of bibimbap that involved rice that became crisp closest to the stone bowl, bursting salmon roe, creamy sea urchin and tiny beads of tobiko – flying fish roe – arrayed in four different colors.


Considering Bean Paste Bibimbap ($8) was fairly delicate, topped with an array of vegetables, including more than one variety of sprout and a generous dollop of house-made soybean paste.


We finished with a pair of classic Korean soups, including Dwen Jang Jji Gae ($7), a murky stew that had short rib meat and firm tofu cubes, which imparted an earthy, nutty quality.


Sam Gye Tang ($8), a slightly medicinal chicken and ginseng soup, was consistent with other versions we’d eaten around Koreatown, and would almost certainly undercut a cold.


Korean restaurants don’t typically serve Western style desserts. If anything, it’s melon gum, a bowl of sweet rice “soup” or fresh fruit. Kim had other ideas. We received slices of cake, which were fine, but store bought and unspectacular. Since our visit, she upgraded to house-made green tea donuts, which wouldn’t have been as sweet, and undoubtedly would have been more satisfying.

Our meal was very good, and fairly reasonable at just north of $30 per person for a wide variety of dishes. As it turns out, we didn’t even try two of Chef Kim’s favorite dishes, braised short rib (Galbi Jim) with mashed sweet potato and fried sweet potato, and spaghetti with kimchi and pollock roe. It’s not like we need any more excuses to return to LaOn Dining, but that makes two.

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Wow! High end korean cuisine. I don’t know if that’ll appeal to the masses in ktown, but impressive nonetheless.

Franklin,

One good thing about LaOn Dining is that it isn’t high end. You can spend $35 per person and eat very well, with no dishes over $15. It’s also a contemporary space, but casual.

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