When I was invited to dine at Gyenari Korean BBQ & Lounge in Culver City, I was a little wary. I'm used to going to Los Angeles' Koreatown to get my fix. I wondered how good the restaurant could be when I noticed that the menu featured "Seoulful" dishes combining Korean and Southern cuisine designed by "The Next Food Network Star" season 5 finalist Debbie Lee. Hmmm. That intrigued me enough to try it out.
Although the meal and drinks at this dinner were complimentary, I'm listing prices so you get an idea of cost.
I was late arriving at the restaurant, but I managed to snag the last grilled meat skewer.
And the others handed over the dduk boki (Korean rice cylinders) for me to try too. These were a little too gummy and bland though.
We were also served Soju caipirinha, fresh limes, raspberries, muddled lychees, soju, splash of soda, $11.
Then, carrying our drinks, we made our way inside the restaurant for the meal.
We started off with the assorted jeon plate (Korean mung bean, shrimp, and fresh vegetables that were lightly battered and fried) served with dipping sauces, $15.
I love battered fried vegetables so these were great.
Pumpkin porridge, toasted pine nuts, soju sauteed dates. I love pumpkin so this was a winner with me.
I vaguely recall being intrigued by the St. Gyenari, St. Germain, poochi poochi, and a soda splash, $11.
We all got a second round of drinks and for the life of me, I can't remember what each person ordered. So you'll just have to look at pretty pictures of drinks instead.
This looks like a mojito?
Pear and shiso salad, flashed rib-eye, shabu sesame dressing.
Then came the assorted banchan (Korean side dishes).
Japchae (Korean sweet potato noodles). A little too sweet for me.
G1 prix fixe combo includes galbi, bulgogi, aged pork belly, flower chicken, and japchae, $79 for two. Two of these platters were brought to the table, so these portions aren't indicative of the price.
Bulgogi (Korean seasoned beef).
The flower chicken. I liked that it was a bit more gingery than I'm used to at Korean barbecue restaurants.
Kalbi (Korean short ribs).
Meat on the grill.
Trio of dipping sauces for the meat.
Rice came in these pretty containers.
The meal was pretty great until the Kimchee Chigae (Korean Tofu Stew) came. The tofu wasn't soft or silken, way too hard for this dish. And there was the tinny taste of canned tomatoes. This dish isn't hard to do. I make it at home all the time so I was sad that it didn't come out so well.
Some other bloggers ordered more drinks.
Desserts were Green tea doughnuts with bacon shortbread cookies, $5.95, and Chocolate creme brulee, $4.95.
Apparently gyenari are yellow flowers that bloom all over Korean said the owner who decided to name his restaurant after and decorate the back wall in tribute to this flower. He didn't know the name in English, but I'm thinking forsythia?
Some misses for me, too sweet japchae and lackluster kimchee chigae, but overall a good Korean barbecue experience. I noticed a Korean short rib pot pie on the menu, but there weren't as many "Seoulful" dishes as I expected. Lunch specials are less than $10. I think for non-Koreans, especially those too intimidated to venture into Koreatown, Gyenari is a great place to get an introduction to Korean cuisine.
Unfortunately, the only thing marring the dinner was dining with other bloggers. I left a $10 tip, and so did Gourmet Pigs and SinoSoul. We were the only ones who did so. Everyone else left $5, if they left any at all. Some people even packed boxes to go and still cheaped out! Look, I know it was a free meal, but the servers don't work for free. And in the whole scheme of things, the extra $5 is probably negligible to you, but makes a big difference to the waiter. We got a ton of food. It was a free meal. This should be when you can afford to be a little more generous, not less.
Thanks again to Meghan of Wagstaff Worldwide, Inc. for the invitation.
Unfortunately, Gyenari closed in April 2011 and reopened as MoKo Modern Korean Social Dining, which closed again a few months later and is supposed reopen as Gyenari 2/G2.
Other Korean barbecue restaurants:
Chung Kiwa Korean BBQ Restaurant - Los Angeles (Koreatown)
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
Soot Bul Gui Rim 2 Korean BBQ - Los Angeles (Koreatown)
Tahoe Galbi Restaurant - Los Angeles (Koreatown)
Gyenari Korean BBQ & Lounge
9540 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232
Monday to Friday 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Happy Hour with food and drink specials
Monday to Friday 3 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
1 year ago today, bamboo shoots.
2 years ago today, Miga Korean BBQ Restaurant - Rowland Heights.