Hanjip opened last year to much fanfare, mostly because it was a chef’s perspective on Korean barbecue from Chris Oh (Seoul Sausage, Escala). While the initial reactions were mostly positive, with a hot take from The Goldster, the Culver City restaurant wasn’t as immediately embraced as it would have been if it were located in LA’s Koreatown. Perhaps it was an unfamiliarity with the format for many local diners, as well as a complaint about higher cost (despite a promised higher level of quality).
Though initially a source of frustration for Oh and partner Stephane Bombet, a recent test run of an AYCE format, which one can find across Koreatown, proved extremely popular during this summer’s dineLA restaurant weeks.
Hence, as of today, Hanjip will be a mostly AYCE experience for lunch and dinner, with prices starting at $17.99 during the day, and either $24.99 or $29.99 for dinner. Don’t worry, lunch enthusiasts can still get their $15 daytime special that comes with one meat item and one entree, but for a few bucks more, why not indulge?
The core of the menu comprises some of Korean barbecue’s most popular meat selections, all in smaller quantities per order, which makes it easier to sample an array of cuts at purportedly the same level of quality. Think brisket (chadolbaegi), beef tongue, spicy chicken, garlic chicken, pork belly, spicy pork belly, and even baby octopus on the daytime’s cheapest menu. Stick around for dinner and the offerings expand to marinated short rib, spicy calamari, and garlic beef while the premium $29.99 level affords ribeye (seriously), beef bulgogi, and even shrimp.
The pricing and offerings are in line with some of Koreatown’s premium AYCE barbecue outlets like Oo Kook and even Il Cha, except that Hanjip’s got some swankier cocktails, nicer digs, and a Westside-adjacent location. The AYCE approach will even hold fast at Hanjip’s massive new Downtown location once it opens later this year (or possibly even early next year depending on permits).
So why is Hanjip going AYCE after nearly a year of operation? Simply put: it’s a better way for diners to get a wider range of dishes while still banking on the Hanjip experience. It still feels like a bit of a let down after some of Oh’s aspirations with the dining format (don’t worry, that $150 tomahawk steak is still available). Semi-ridiculous (and often delicious) modifiers like a bubbling cheese fondue and steam buns (a la Momofuku) come gratis with each meal while Oh’s more creative side dishes like bone marrow cheese corn and uni-topped steamed egg remain for an extra cost. Finally, there’s a table-top chocolate fondue for dessert, in case the watermelon soju wasn’t enough.