Barbecue has long been a specialty in Los Angeles’s Koreatown, with restaurants like Park’s, Chosun, and Soot Bull Jeep grounding a scene that makes this city one of the best places in the world to enjoy the classic Korean meal of tabletop grilled meats and banchan. LA’s Korean barbecue is so good, even, that many of its diners believe it rivals the restaurants in Seoul. So it only makes sense that one of Seoul’s most celebrated Korean barbecue restaurants has opened in the heart of Koreatown, showing LA’s KBBQ scene that Seoul can hold its own against the Los Angeles format.
Daedo Sikdang, which was founded in Seoul in 1964 near a butcher shop in Majang-Dong, the city’s main meat market, opened its first U.S. location on July 8. And by all appearances, Daedo is bound to become one of the most impressive places to eat Korean barbecue in the country.
Daedo established itself as one of Seoul’s top barbecues by modernizing the experience into a bona fide steakhouse and limiting its menu to basically the best cut of beef: ribeye sliced as three primary cuts that divide the chop into the eye, cap, and strip. These cuts are then cooked on a specialized cast iron pan greased only with a white knob of kidney fat. The choice of beef is the restaurant’s biggest selling point, and Daedo’s Certified Angus Beef prime grade meat already places it within the upper echelon of LA barbecue spots, joining Park’s and Chosun, as well as Gwangyang (which also expanded from Seoul), Jeong Yuk Jeom, AB Steak, and Woo Hyang Woo.
In Korea, Daedo only serves the country’s prized hanu beef, a variety that incorporates much of the marbled richness of the Japanese cow, but boasts a more intensely beefy and almost minerally complexity. Hanu is produced in such small quantities that distributors rarely export the meat outside of South Korea. Here in Los Angeles, Daedo brand president Jiman Park chose prime grade beef wet-aged on the premises to fill in, mostly because it’s the closest thing in terms of flavor, richness, and tenderness to hanu.
In addition to the beef, Daedo in LA has a few other touches that separate it as a dining experience. First, the arresting interior design, with high ceilings in a standalone building that once operated as a room salon along 6th Street. The interior has a semi-industrial vibe with sleek LED hanging lights, built-in grills on Querkus wood tabletops, exposed brick walls, and brass finishes. When filled with diners and the sounds of sizzling meat, the ambiance has the conviviality of a classic Korean barbecue restaurant with more of the refinement of a modern steakhouse.
Back to the table, meals are set with different flavorings, from a sweet soy dip to a spicier, briny pickled shrimp sauce to roasted sea salt. A deeply umami soybean paste from Chiri mountain in Korea, plus diced kakdugi round out the sauces, which are supposed to supplement the seared ribeye pieces. The kakdugi, or fermented Korean radish cubes, are actually flown in from South Korea, along with a number of ingredients that are kept in continued fermentation and storage so that they either retain freshness or continue to develop in flavor. This kakdugi continues to play a part in the meal here, making up the crispy fried rice that can be ordered later in the meal. The crunchy, refreshing radish is a departure from more traditional baechu kimchi, the napa cabbage kimchi that most people associate with Korean meals.
As for the other dishes, everything is meant to either cap off or work as punctuations to the Korean barbecue experience. A sort of transitional dish, the tangy yeolmu cold noodle bowl provides a pop of complex, fermented cold broth and just-the-right-chew so-myeon noodles underneath a tangle of radish leaf kimchi (also flown in from Korea). Fans of LA’s legendary Corner Place and its cold dongchimi noodles will immediately understand why this cold bowl of noodles is so essential, though the version at Daedo is less sweet and more well-rounded with the fermenting liquid (we promise it’s really delicious and approachable despite the fermentation).
Other courses include an excellent yukgaejang, or spicy beef soup with brisket, fernbrake, bean sprouts, and vermicelli; a butane flame-seared quick grilled bulgogi with a mild soy marinade; a special non-prime beef cut called myungpoom that has a bit more chew and heft; a comforting doenjang (soybean paste) porridge; and finally a beef consomme. For a Korean barbecue restaurant, there really isn’t much from which to choose, and beef is the only protein available for the grill. As for drinks, Daedo has full cocktails from Vivien Du and a very solid wine list: an Amazon 1964 mixes soju with banana and lime; a Haeundae Sunset uses makgeoli and grapefruit syrup. The only dessert is a very refreshing milk-based soft serve with a crispy rice cracker.
Owner Jonathan Lee partnered with Jiman Park, assembling a team with executive chef Sangkyun Han, chef de cuisine, Eunsook Choi, general manager Miyoung Chong, and meat director Taeyoon Oh. The website and menu’s stellar graphics are by Heekyung Park of Sammi Corporation.
Like other higher-end Korean barbecues, servers are the primary ones doing the cooking at the table, and between the kidney fat washes, replacing of the cast iron, fried rice preparation, meat grilling, slicing, and cleaning of the grill in between with eggplant slices, it’s a lot of work. All of it makes for one of the most special dining experiences in the city right now, one that’s already drawing long waits — because Daedo currently does not accept reservations yet.
Daedo is currently open daily from 5 to 11 p.m., with eventual lunch service.
(Daedo is pronounced deh-doh; Sikdang, which means restaurant, is pronounced sheek-dahng)