Hamkyungdo Abaii Soondae (Ham Kyung Do Restaurant)

Alright alright, when the Boodae Jjigae crew strikes, it’s gon’ be big.  This time it wasn’t Boodae Jjigae.  We went out for some Kimchi Jjigae; and like last time, we went to a place for Korean middle-aged men.  That’s usually where good Korean food will be served.  To add on top of that, Kimchi Jjigae wasn’t even on the menu.  And more?  You need to order it at least an hour ahead of time.  It’s overshadowed by Park’s BBQ as it is in the same strip mall.

H, CK, Dae, and goshjosh from UCLA, Juboy from Valencia, and myself were the culprits of the day.  The Kimchi Jjigae experience started off with me being in the hot seat.  While we were waiting for everyone to show up, we were waiting outside and apparently we were too loud.  An old lady from the restaurant comes out and tells us that we’re loud and we should go to the PC Game Room upstairs.  I tell her that we’re going to eat at the restaurant.  Then she starts asking all these questions, “what could you possibly eat here? how do you know we have kimchi jjigae? etc. etc.”  It seemed more like an interrogation, but my Korean held up surprisingly without a flaw and I managed to do it while keeping a smile on my face.

Maybe the old lady felt bad along with the other old ladies in there because what came next was a great time and great hospitality.  It was the six of us and I phoned in three hours earlier to order 3 servings of Kimchi Jjigae.  We ordered Soondae and also an order of Bossam.  Soondae is Korean blood sausage and that wasn’t real popular within our group.  CK and I like soondae, but I don’t think the others shared the same opinion.  Maybe it has something to do with soondae being made out of blood, but whatever.  CK also cleaned out the tongue, liver, and some other thing that was there.  I think he really likes this stuff.

I thought maybe the ladies would like the Bossam.  I don’t think that worked out either.  With Bossam, you get usually boiled pork belly or raw oysters as the meat, some fermented radish that’s marinated to be somewhat spicy, and wrap it in a huge white cabbage leaf.  I don’t too crazy over it but if it’s within reach, I wouldn’t mind wrapping myself a few.

So it seemed like the soondae and bossam wasn’t cutting it.  Then came the timely appearance of what we came for, the Kimchi Jjigae.  That Kimchi Jjigae that’s not on the menu.  That Kimchi Jjigae that you have to order ahead of time.  That Kimchi Jjigae where you need to bring your Korean A game, or at least bring someone who can speak Korean.  That Kimchi Jjigae that the old ladies put their time in to make.  Aside from the Kimchi Jjigae your mother makes, this jjigae goes somewhere up there.  They give you so much kimchi.  The pork belly that’s in there is cooked ’til it’s so tender.  The soup part of the jjigae was so hearty.  I mean, with jjigaes in most places, it feels a bit watery, but here, the jjigae was just… this is how jjigaes ought to be.

One thing is for certain, we had an atypical experience here.  I don’t think people would be greeted with “there’s a PC game room upstairs.”  The friendly service is probably typical though, not that sometimes annoying friendly service you find at the fanciest of restaurants but more of that genuine kind coming from old Korean ladies.  Maybe it was that awkward encounter in the beginning but the service turned into something you would expect from a family friend.  We got free Gyeran-mari (Korean omelette), not one but two.  And though our final bill came out to $80, the old lady told us to pay $50 because we’re students and students don’t have any money.  Where else would you be able to find such sincerity like that?

How to order: You MUST order ahead of time if you want Kimchi Jjigae.  I think it was an hour ahead of time but to be safe, do it a couple hours ahead of time.  If you can’t speak Korean, find a friend that can when placing the order.  I doubt any English is spoken here.  It’s going to cost you $11-12 per serving of Kimchi Jjigae.

Hamkyungdo Abaii Soondae (Ham Kyung Do Restaurant)
955 S Vermont Ave, Ste A
Los Angeles, CA 90006
Phone: 213.388.2013

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Mariscos 4 Vientos

After seeing pictures of the Shrimp Tacos on LA Taco, I knew Mariscos 4 Vientos would soon have to be crossed off my I-seriously-need-to-go-there list. I headed east on Olympic Blvd. and learned that the street suddenly ends in the Fashion District in Downtown and mysteriously starts elsewhere.  I started looking for the truck in unfamiliar territory.  Then I ended up on an intersection where I thought the truck was supposed to be at.  Great.  But I had to use the bathroom.  So I continued back on Olympic to find a supermarket or something.  Well, several blocks down, I found the brick and mortar location of Mariscos 4 Vientos with a bathroom.  Nice.  And then I had the Shrimp Taco experience at Mariscos 4 Vientos.  That was a few weeks ago.

I’ve gone a couple of times since.  I’ve never had anything quite like these tacos before and they’re great.  You have a generous amount of shrimp with some sort of mixture that’s in tortillas and then deep fried.  It’s covered in their salsa and a generous amount of avocado.  The salsa has a refreshing taste to it, kinda different from the salsas at other taquerias where they have more of an earthly taste.

But don’t stop with the Shrimp Tacos here.  Go on and try the other things that they offer.  The Tostada with Ceviche and Shrimp is pretty good too.  There’s a nice citrus flavor and may I add that they are very generous with the amount of shrimp they pile on.  And on every table there is a bag of tostadas which, I suppose, you can take as much as you please.  The Coctel de Camaron is also great.  Again, Mariscos 4 Vientos is generous with the shrimp.  The cocktail sauce has a nice sweetness to it.  The Coctel would be awesome on a hot summer day to cool you down.

This brings me to wonder… I wonder how some dining establishments are able to offer great food with generous portions at generous prices whereas other places offer great food but with not-so-generous portions at not-so generous prices.  Eh, I guess I do have some idea why: Cost of doing business, property value, supply and demand, the cost of living, etc. etc.  Well, can’t have everything your way, right?

Something that’s pretty neat is the roving bands that play here.  Live music!  With maybe a little price attached.

Mariscos 4 Vientos
3332 E. Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90023
Phone: 323.269.3605

Via-Mar

As a Westsider, Lobster Burritos are probably something I expect in my neck of the woods.  And they would probably command at least double what I paid for at Via-Mar.  Would it be as good?  I can’t say.  But take the word of this gringo here if it means anything to you, the Lobster Burrito at Via-Mar is pretty darn money!

I felt I needed a Lobster Burrito so I drove on over to Highland Park.  Via-Mar is on Figueroa in between Ave. 51 and Ave. 52.  Street parking in the area should be abundant.  I’ve hit a good streak of Mexican seafood places.  I’ve only tried two though, hahaha.  The other being Mariscos 4 Vientos in Boyle Heights.

I ordered the Lobster Burrito, a Shrimp Taco, and an Horchata to wash all the goodness down.  Let me start with the burrito.  Pretty sizeable chunks of lobster have a light batter on them and is fried to a perfect crisp.  The fried lobster is just tasty itself.  It’s wrapped in a warm tortilla with rice, tomatoes, shredded cabbage, crema, and some hot sauce.  The crema adds a slight sweetness as well as richness to the taste of the overall burrito but it is nicely balanced with hot sauce that adds a slight lingering kick.  This stuff is legit.  This stuff is good.

The Shrimp Taco was good as well, but I was full enough from the burrito.  After a few bites into the taco, I started picking off the shrimp. It was sitting as I was eating my burrito and I was surprised the shrimp wasn’t that soggy.  Oh, the shrimp is also fried like the lobster.  But at $2.75 for this taco, I feel it’s a better deal to get this in burrito form.  The same probably goes for the lobster burrito which is at $6.  The other time I was here, I got the Lobster Burrito and the Shrimp Taco Dorado-style (hard-shell/deep-fried).  I felt the Dorado Shrimp Tacos were a lot better at Mariscos 4 Vientos and it’s a bit cheaper at $1.50.

That being the case, come here for Lobster Burritos.  I think it’s a pretty good deal for what they put out.  And I’m not taking anything away from the fact that it’s pretty good regardless of price.

Via-Mar
5111 N Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90042
Phone: 323.255.4929

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