Park's has become a destination for tabletop grilled Korean meats.
Not many restaurants have the courage to line their facade with photos of raw meat platters. Park’s Barbeque has no such qualms. On their facade, menu and business cards, Park’s alternately advertises itself as a Bar-B-Q, Barbecue and B.B.Q. restaurant. All of this sends a pointed message: vegetarians need not enter.
Owner Jenee Kim franchised Park’s in 2003, building on a tradition established in Seoul. Park’s dining room is surprisingly sleek. Yellow walls frame black tables and chairs. Stainless steel hoods top each table, to suck up smoke from charcoal grills. Photos of Korean, Korean-American and American celebrities like Jessica Alba and Nicolas Cage line walls.
Park’s clearly served the best banchan – complimentary dishes – that I’ve tasted. According to our waiter, 14 different dishes are available. We received omelette slices; chili-soaked sesame leaves; a scoop of pumpkin studded with raisins; small chile slathered shrimp with sliced jalapeños; slippery seaweed slices; chile soaked fish cakes with onions; chile soaked bean sprouts; and chewy, mayo-soaked seaweed strands that resembled cole slaw.
On a later visit, I enjoyed oi kimchi, starring spicy marinated cucumbers.
Round two included a scoop of potato salad and fried seaweed cuts that were crispy and addictive. Finally, we received a complimentary dish of raw chile soaked crab, which was a little like sashimi, but spicier, served with more jalapeño.
The menu was actually surprisingly streamlined, centering on USDA Prime beef in cuts like “Kobe” style beef, seasoned and unseasoned short ribs, both on and off the bone, skirt steak, rib eye, “mountain chain tripe,” abomasum (another type of cow intestine), plus “Tokyo X” style pork belly.
Park’s marinated seasoned short ribs ($27) with soy, sesame seeds and more. There were only two of us, so our waiter dissuaded us from ordering more than one meat platter, since portions are massive. They presented a platter of raw ribs with tongs and scissors.
Our waiter unfurled our thin-sliced meats on our tabletop grill. I’m used to cooking meats at Korean barbecue houses myself, but Park’s waiters won’t allow that. The beef developed a nice caramelized crust, with terrific flavor. After the meats cooked, our waiter picked up the ribs with tongs and cut it into pieces with scissors.
Meat came with romaine leaves for wrapping, plus raw garlic cloves and jalapeños, to grill and wrap with the meat. They supplied a dish of chile spiked fermented bean paste and a murky tan dipping sauce that included chopped jalapeño. The bean paste was a little too pungent for my palate, but the mystery dipping sauce accented the short rib’s flavor.
We ordered a rarely-seen seafood version of “rice in hot stone pot,” aka bibimbap ($10), featuring piles of small shrimp, smelt eggs, mushrooms, kidney beans, seaweed, lettuce and radishes. Our server stirred the ingredients together before cooking. A rice crust formed on the stone pot, it was a very good dish with juicy bursts from tiny orange smelt eggs.
Mid-way through our meal, we received green-onion salad with sesame and chilies. There was also a bowl of broth-y soup. Food never stopped flowing at Park’s.
On a subsequent visit, for dinner instead of lunch, I noted they’ve several Park’s Specials since the early days, including Beef Tartar, Open Flame Abalone, Spicy Black Cod and Pan Fried Atka Mackerel.
Pancake w/Rock Shrimp and Green Onion ($17) was a crisp, savory pancake studded with rock shrimp, scallions, green and red peppers, served with garlic, scallion and red chile dipping sauce.
Gal-Bi ($36) non-marinated Prime beef short rib, was hand carved to form a diamond pattern. The special cut adds tenderness to the meat. We were able to wrap the juicy meat in lettuce with fermented bean paste, raw garlic and jalapeño, or dip in salt. Assorted Mushroom (large, $15) including enoki, shiitake strips and Portobello caps all crisped up on the grill and soaked up the pork and beef fat’s flavor. Kimchi was another great innovation, which crisped up and caramelized on the griddle.
Seasoned Special Pork Belly ($26) featured meaty marinated slabs in house soy based sauce.
To finish, we received a bowl of spicy noodle soup featuring thin-sliced brisket, potato strands, rice cakes, egg, and julienne cucumber.
Korean restaurants don’t focus on dessert, though at dinner, Park’s offers fresh watermelon and orange slices.
Considering their deft use of Prime beef, that inventive seafood bibimbap and such outstanding giveaways, Park’s Bar-B-Q has clearly reached the upper strata of Korean restaurants in Los Angeles.
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