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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Korea Roundup 2011: Meaty Fish Grilled to Pefection at Jejuhang

I know I've already reviewed this place, Jejuhang, but I only briefly mentioned it and considering I devoted a whole post to ranting about a lack of good kalchi fish in LA, I thought I should have a moment of silence for this most excellent restaurant.

It certainly doesn't come cheap. And this neat row of three grilled Hairtail (kalchi) cost us a hefty $40 but then again, it came with rice specked with black rice pebbles (giving it a deep purple hue) and the delectable side dishes that I'll get into in a bit.

The fish apparently gets flown in regularly straight from the source in Jeju Island off the southern coast. I so missed the taste of seriously meaty kalchi. It was just oily enough (but not as much as a mackerel that it also specializes in but we didn't order) to give it that soft texture and grilled to perfection with perfectly charred skin.

Let's talk banchan. It had five different kinds of side dishes, including one of my favorites, doraji. It was smothered in a spicy, tangy and barely sweet marinade -- a mix of garlic, red pepper flake, sugar, sesame oil, sesame seeds and rice vinegar. Doraji, which doesn't have a universally accepted translation (platy cando is one), is basically a root vegetable that has been pounded for softening and then shredded thin. It has an earthy and slightly bitter taste that blends extremely well with the aforementioned marinade.

Then came the greens in the form of sutkat. These usually show up on your table in fresh form, accompanying lettuce and perilla leaves for a barbecue fest. But they are also a popular type of namul, which is a standard way of eating greens and roots -- blanched and seasoned with either a spicy or just garlicky marinade.

The cabbage kimchi was just ok and the pickled radish and super fine (as in not stalky -- I don't mean fancy) seaweed (parae) wasn't anything to write home about.

I will try to return to this place to re-savor the braised mackerel I had last time -- piping hot and bright red in its spicy and slightly sweet glory.

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