As far as popular Chinese culinary regions go, the Sichuan region might be the furthest away from Korea. So when Odumak opened earlier in September in the heart of Koreatown on Western Avenue, the menu seemed a little bit out of place. What’s with the Sichuan-style food, opened by Koreans? Turns out it’s all part of owner Jennie Oh’s plan. An ethnic Korean born in China, Oh speaks both fluent Mandarin and Korean — and Odumak’s food does as well.
The interior of Odumak is charming, if not still a bit of a work in progress. The restaurant houses mostly booths and tables intended to seat six to eight, including three private booths in the back. The signage points to Odumak being a makgeolli specialist, the Korean rice wine that’s a natural pairing for spicy food. Just one thing, though:
“We haven’t obtained our ABC license yet,” Oh says in Korean. “Some of our Korean guests come in anticipating liquor and are a little confused, but we opened anyway so that our guests can enjoy the food and take a load off.”
It’s got all the makings of a casual watering hole once the ABC license comes through, but the restaurant’s worth a visit regardless for one more significant reason: Odumak is home to some of the most serious Sichuan and Korean cuisine in LA.
The menu at Odumak takes some deciphering. For one, there’s the “Odumak BBQ,” which is actually Korean yuksu bulgogi. Thinly sliced beef steeped in a soy-sauce based broth with julienned vegetables and glass noodles arrives at the table on a stone plate. It’s one of the better renditions of the dish for those who are wary of spice — and there’s plenty of spice on the menu for everyone else.
Odumak’s hot pot is brimming with the citrusy, almost grassy taste of Sichuan peppercorn. The heat brings a familiar numbing sensation, intense enough to stand toe-to-toe with many of the plates served at Nothingness and Szechuan Impression in the San Gabriel Valley.
When the spicy cod comes to the table, things take a turn for the weird. Dry, almost jerky-like fish is split in half, served with its bones still intact and stuffed with a sauce of red peppers. The heat is unreal: in an order of magnitude comparable to the upper end of Howlin’ Ray’s fiery offerings.
The menu vacillates between Korean and Sichuan cuisine without warning; it’ll probably be one of the only times naengmyeon, cumin-spiced toothpick lamb, bulgogi and hot pot appear in the same place. And yet all of the dishes seem to work together. There isn’t a dud in the bunch.
Cumin-spiced toothpick lamb is one of the more tender, juicy, and mildly spiced items available. It compares favorably against the versions on offer at Szechuan Impression and Chengdu Taste. To wit, there might not be a more refreshing respite from Sichuan peppercorn heat than a bowl of naengmyeon. It’s already one of the finest results of the culinary alliance between Korea and China since jjajjiangmyeon. And so — despite its current lack of alcohol — in a vacuum, Odumak provides a unique marriage between Sichuan and Korean cuisines that’s, in a way, right at home in Los Angeles.
338 S. Western Ave, Ste. D
Los Angeles, CA