On Dal 2 is one of L.A.'s best places to eat crab.
Last Saturday, after enjoying a flight of beers at Blue Palms Brewhouse, Pat (“Eating LA”), Matt and I drove to a desolate stretch of Washington Boulevard to experience the spicy Korean crab soup that Matthew Kang raved about recently on “Mattatouille.” For $25 per person, we enjoyed a flavorful, varied experience that would be hard to top for the price.
Soo Kim has been the chef-owner of On Dal 2 for a little over two years, naming her restaurant for a popular Korean cartoon character. The original On Dal is in Koreatown, but it’s unrelated and according to Soo Kim’s son James, who works in the dining room, “It doesn’t taste the same.”
We sat on the enclosed back patio, at a picnic table. To start, we each received a dish of crisp iceberg lettuce with a sweet and tangy orange puree. It was nothing special, but cleansed my palate.
Banchan were fairly interesting, highlighted by crispy green bean-like vegetables slathered in chile sauce, fluffy squiggles of sweet and salty fried seaweed, tender octopus strips in chile sauce, cuts of earthy root vegetable and strips of chile-brushed fish cake with onion and pepper.
Raw crab slathered with chile paste has always been lost on me at Korean restaurants. The flavor is great, but tiny legs are impossible to crack.
We split a crispy pancake loaded with carrot and pepper strips, yet another complimentary offering.
Crisp skinned mackerel was like an oversized sardine, oily and moist, but not nearly as pungent.
When we ordered spicy crab soup ($55 medium), James Kim asked how spicy we wanted the broth, and we chose medium. The bubbling cauldron was loaded with vegetables, mushrooms, sprouts and scallions. James Kim identified the crustacean as “swimming crab,” comparing it to blue crab. Some of the scissor-cuts of sweet crab featured orange clumps of prized roe at the end. The more broth I sipped, the more the flavor and spice built. This was a terrific dish, but it was just stage one.
Crab “dumplings” featured minced crab meat, presented in the shell, topped with with sprouts and spooned with spicy broth.
Our waitress brought out bags of dough and tossed fresh-formed pasta sheets into the pot. It took five minutes for the pasta to cook, at which point it absorbed some flavor from the addicting broth.
Our waitress removed the residual chunks of crab and added ingredients to the pot for “Korean paella.” She stir-fried rice with sesame oil, bean powder, curry, cilantro, seaweed and “special sauce” – a chile paste. The flavor was terrific, and the bottom of the rice formed a crust on the pan.
We each received a complementary dish of cool, bracing kimchi radish soup.
To finish our meal, we received a dish of shik-hwe – sweet rice tea floating with shards of ice.
We were all ready to submit after Stage One, but powered through the rest of the meal and were rewarded with a wide range of flavors and textures. On Dal 2 might not be in Koreatown, but the restaurant clearly offers one of the better Korean dining experiences in Los Angeles.