I think the above picture is enough to convince you why Chung Kiwa Korean BBQ Restaurant is one of my favorites in Koreatown. (My favorite in Orange County is still Seol Ak San in Stanton for the cooking on a rock slab, kimchee fried rice, and tofu soup.) This is the reason why I said for my money, instead of the all-you-can eat price tag at Manna Korean BBQ, I'd rather head a few blocks west and go here. How much do you think this all cost? I'll save the bill for the end and you tell me if you think it's worth it.
One of the main considerations in choosing a Korean barbecue restaurant is quality of the meat. As you can see here, Chung Kiwa serves black Angus beef.
In case this wasn't clear, Chung Kiwa serves black Angus beef. :)
On this particular night, I and three of my cousins were seated in a private room with only one other table. So quiet and not smoky since we were away from the hub of the main room.
Cold barley tea. Most places serve this, you just have to ask. But I like it when they bring it out automatically.
Panchan (side dishes). Now this is what I'm talking about. No measly half dozen selection for us. Actually, when served like this, I'm a bigger fan of the panchan than I am of the meat.
And then comes the lettuce salad, daikon and rice noodle sheets, and dipping sauces. I get excited just looking at the food.
Here's close-ups of all the panchan. In case you've never eaten Korean barbecue before, these are all refillable. I usually try to eat everything and only request extras of my favorites so I don't waste food.
I like that they provide both daikon slices and dduk bok sam (rice noodle sheets) to wrap around the meat. And the dduk bok sam were all pre-separated so I don't have to manually do it, but can just pick them up with my chopsticks.
Sauces along with bean paste and raw garlic and jalapenos.
We ordered a plate of bulgogi.
The kalbi (Korean marinated short ribs) are already on the grill. The wait staff cuts it up for you, puts it on the grill, and checks up so you don't actually have to do much cooking yourself.
The dduk bok sam wrapped around a piece of kalbi.
Those of you who wish to cut down your carbs can use daikon slices to wrap around your meat.
Now the bulgogi goes on the grill. I like how they add some onion and mushrooms to the mix. Sooo good once they combine with the meat juices from the grill.
Finished off with a bowl of chik naengmyun (Korean cold arrowroot noodle soup). The noodles are chewy. The broth is a bit vinegary and very flavorful. Really, the best naengmyun I've ever had. There's slices of various meats, half a hard-boiled egg, cucumber, and slices of Japanese pear. The crunch and the sweetness of the pear totally works here. This soup is an awesome finish to the meal.
So how much do you think this all cost?
The black Angus kalbi was $24.99. The bulgogi was $20.99. And the naengmyun was $8.31. Total of $54.29. That's substantially cheaper than either of the two all-you-can-eat places I just featured. And even though we only had two orders of meat, this fed 4 people full to stuffing.
So let's recap shall we? Meat quality is excellent. Decor is clean with a nice ambiance. Panchan selection is varied and of good quality. Service was just attentive enough. Of course, I haven't eaten at every Korean barbecue restaurant in Koreatown yet, but I've always left here with a happy belly. Now, if only I can find a Koreatown restaurant that grills the meat on a rock slab and throws in kimchee fried rice...
March 29, 2008 Update: The black Angus kalbi is now $29.99. To see pictures of the $22.99 choice galbi and daeji bulgogi (Korean spicy pork), $18.99, and another Chung Kiwa revisit.
Other Korean barbecue restaurants:
Feedable BBQ Buffet - Rowland Heights
Gui Il Bun Ji BBQ Restaurant - Los Angeles (Koreatown)
Hae Jang Chon Korean BBQ Restaurant - Los Angeles (Koreatown)
Hwa Ro Korean BBQ and Tofu -San Gabriel
Hwang Hae Do Korean BBQ - Artesia
Light Town House Korean BBQ - Garden Grove (Korean Business District)
Manna Korean BBQ - Los Angeles (Koreatown)
Miga Korean BBQ Restaurant - Rowland Heights
Ong Ga Nae Korean BBQ - Rowland Heights
San Ya Restaurant Korean BBQ & Noodle - Los Angeles (Koreatown)
Seol Ak San - Stanton
Tahoe Galbi Restaurant - Los Angeles (Koreatown)
Chung Kiwa Korean BBQ Restaurant
3545 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90019