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Korean barbecue at Dalmaji
Korean barbecue at Dalmaji
Yelp/Bomi W.

The Hottest Korean Barbecue Restaurants in Los Angeles, Summer 2016

Gotta try 'em all? Well, it's time to get weird.

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Korean barbecue at Dalmaji
| Yelp/Bomi W.

What makes the Korean restaurant scene in Los Angeles especially exciting is the fact that there's constant (and fierce) competition within a roughly three-mile square from Western Ave. to Vermont Ave., bound by 3rd Street and Olympic Blvd. The turnover in tenants at these buildings is tremendous, with invigorated entrepreneurs sprouting their newest restaurants from the ashes of another's closure.

Considering this, there's probably no restaurant that's seen as many gimmicky reiterations per capita than Korean barbecue. As the saying goes, if your Korean barbecue can make it here, it can make it anywhere (or something like that).

This special Eater Barbecue Week edition of the Korean grilled meat heatmap brings a couple of intriguing newcomers — including a serious contender for the all-you-can-eat crown — and a couple oldies getting some national-level exposure that might be due for a resurgence. Add to that a restaurant trying to make a healthier take on bulgogi and a couple mainstays offering intriguing carnivorous takes on the format, and you'd get the eight hottest Korean barbecue restaurants in LA.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Il Cha Korean BBQ Restaurant

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If Oo-Kook is the industry incumbent for the best all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue crown, Il Cha's coming at their rack with all the innovative bravado of a brash Silicon Valley startup. Service is rough around the edges and the banchan is as forgettable as ever, and whether or not meat quality will sustain is another matter altogether. Which only means one thing: Get it while the getting is good and see if Il Cha can ride out the initial storm and remain largely intact with high quality at a semi-reasonable price.

Jang Gun BBQ

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Jang Gun (pronounced "Jahng-Goon") is quietly putting out some of the city's most prodigiously marbled beef short rib in a humble little spot south of Wilshire and Vermont. Though meats are served a la carte, they're incredibly affordable and the lunch menu looks particularly intriguing with most of their specials under $10. If you're feeling adventurous, samkyeopsal can be ordered with a kimchi stew surrounding it — the fermented bite of the kimchi is a perfect complement for the surprisingly not-so-fatty cuts of pork belly. The banchan is a little underwhelming, but for those looking for an affordable way to eat a la carte, high quality barbecue, Jang Gun definitely merits a serious look.

Jjukku Jjukku BBQ

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Jjukku Jjukku's still a specialist in seafood barbecue, but recently they added a prime all-you-can-eat menu to the menu to up the ante. Surf and turf it with some of that spicy baby octopus and prime-grade marbled meats.

Mapo Galbi

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Mapo Galbi moved into newer digs earlier this year but it's been giving the people what they want. Giant pans full of spicy chicken and perilla leaves and even cheese make up what's become a culinary mainstay in Korea and quickly becoming a thing here. After all, Jonathan Gold and David Chang can't both be wrong, can they?

Dalmaji

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Dalmaji is a South Korean import specializing in well-marbled beef and — get this — gaejang, or spicy raw marinated crab. It's not particularly representative of Daegu cuisine (it IS a barbecue after all), but you might want to look into their pork offerings and stone-pot bulgogi cooked in its own broth.

Feng Mao

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Feng Mao Lamb Kebab might technically be Chinese-Korean barbecue, but it's actually a closer analogue to Japanese robata. Skewered morsels of lamb or beef (or, you know, bull penis) are grilled on skewers are served next to Sino-Korean sides like Mapo Tofu, or pig intestines in sweet and sour sauce. You know how the saying goes: Don't knock it until you actually try the bull penis.

Ong Ga Nae Korean BBQ

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Ong Ga Nae recently opened off Vermont, and so far it's been quiet. The restaurant specializes in saeng bulgogi, a type of unmarinated bulgogi that comes with a plate of vegetables and is cooked in a sweet broth that imparts that familiar sweet soy bulgogi flavor. The resultant is (ostensibly) a Korean bulgogi experience with reduced sodium content. Being wary of sodium content is aligned with current Korean health trends (and it's actually something we should look out for in general, if we're being honest), so look to Ong Ga Nae and their unmarinated bulgogi to start gaining traction.

Mirak 2

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Mirak 2 has slightly pivoted toward being a goat stew specialist in addition to putting out the better duck barbecue experience in the city. If you order duck to be grilled atop the grill, make sure you leave room for an excellent kimchi fried rice made from rendered duck fat (It's sort of like a kimchi duck confit fried rice?). You've been warned: Mirak 2's menu has been known to scare off less adventurous Koreans, but for those who love it, they swear by it.

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Il Cha Korean BBQ Restaurant

If Oo-Kook is the industry incumbent for the best all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue crown, Il Cha's coming at their rack with all the innovative bravado of a brash Silicon Valley startup. Service is rough around the edges and the banchan is as forgettable as ever, and whether or not meat quality will sustain is another matter altogether. Which only means one thing: Get it while the getting is good and see if Il Cha can ride out the initial storm and remain largely intact with high quality at a semi-reasonable price.

Jang Gun BBQ

Jang Gun (pronounced "Jahng-Goon") is quietly putting out some of the city's most prodigiously marbled beef short rib in a humble little spot south of Wilshire and Vermont. Though meats are served a la carte, they're incredibly affordable and the lunch menu looks particularly intriguing with most of their specials under $10. If you're feeling adventurous, samkyeopsal can be ordered with a kimchi stew surrounding it — the fermented bite of the kimchi is a perfect complement for the surprisingly not-so-fatty cuts of pork belly. The banchan is a little underwhelming, but for those looking for an affordable way to eat a la carte, high quality barbecue, Jang Gun definitely merits a serious look.

Jjukku Jjukku BBQ

Jjukku Jjukku's still a specialist in seafood barbecue, but recently they added a prime all-you-can-eat menu to the menu to up the ante. Surf and turf it with some of that spicy baby octopus and prime-grade marbled meats.

Mapo Galbi

Mapo Galbi moved into newer digs earlier this year but it's been giving the people what they want. Giant pans full of spicy chicken and perilla leaves and even cheese make up what's become a culinary mainstay in Korea and quickly becoming a thing here. After all, Jonathan Gold and David Chang can't both be wrong, can they?

Dalmaji

Dalmaji is a South Korean import specializing in well-marbled beef and — get this — gaejang, or spicy raw marinated crab. It's not particularly representative of Daegu cuisine (it IS a barbecue after all), but you might want to look into their pork offerings and stone-pot bulgogi cooked in its own broth.

Feng Mao

Feng Mao Lamb Kebab might technically be Chinese-Korean barbecue, but it's actually a closer analogue to Japanese robata. Skewered morsels of lamb or beef (or, you know, bull penis) are grilled on skewers are served next to Sino-Korean sides like Mapo Tofu, or pig intestines in sweet and sour sauce. You know how the saying goes: Don't knock it until you actually try the bull penis.

Ong Ga Nae Korean BBQ

Ong Ga Nae recently opened off Vermont, and so far it's been quiet. The restaurant specializes in saeng bulgogi, a type of unmarinated bulgogi that comes with a plate of vegetables and is cooked in a sweet broth that imparts that familiar sweet soy bulgogi flavor. The resultant is (ostensibly) a Korean bulgogi experience with reduced sodium content. Being wary of sodium content is aligned with current Korean health trends (and it's actually something we should look out for in general, if we're being honest), so look to Ong Ga Nae and their unmarinated bulgogi to start gaining traction.

Mirak 2

Mirak 2 has slightly pivoted toward being a goat stew specialist in addition to putting out the better duck barbecue experience in the city. If you order duck to be grilled atop the grill, make sure you leave room for an excellent kimchi fried rice made from rendered duck fat (It's sort of like a kimchi duck confit fried rice?). You've been warned: Mirak 2's menu has been known to scare off less adventurous Koreans, but for those who love it, they swear by it.

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