Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Olympic Cheonggukjang

Whenever I crave "REAL" Korean food, you can find me at Olympic Cheonggukjang. Not only was I the first to review this place, I kept it a secret for a long time because hell, this restaurant is NOT for everyone. But, Jonathan Gold reviewed it early this year so the droves of people are already flocking to this restaurant.

The moment you walk in, you will be greeted with a pungent smell that can only be described as nasty sewage poo fart. The reason for this is the Cheonggukjang, a way stinkier and more fermented version of Daen Jang jjigae (but also, apparently, much healthier).

You will also realize that for the most part, this restaurant is full of old people. I first came here with my health nut dad and mom because my dad was in the mood for Cheongukjang, a specialty that even many Koreans cannot stand to smell or eat in the same vicinity (hence, most restaurants with typical Korean menus will not serve this dish. Think of it as offensive as Durian). 

I personally thought I was going to hurl when I first came here (and I love Durian). However, as soon as I ordered my tamer and less smelly dish of Corvina (jo gi goo eeh), I was floored. So crispy on the outside and meaty and juicy on the inside. 

Jo Gi Goo Eeh (Corvina): fried to a crisp! 

I realized that even though this place specializes in Cheonggukjang, there are few other places in Koreatown that has such high quality food as this place. Sure there are some hit or miss items (I'm not a fan of the duk gook here, for example), but their jjigaes (stews) are to die for and hit a nerve in your soul, and the banchans (side dishes) are all homemade, delicious, and super fresh. My favorite is their crispy gheem (seaweed lavers) that come with a toothpick stuck in the middle so it doesn't fly everywhere. The Spicy Pork Bulgogi even won an award last year.

The Spread: Pork Bulgogi, Daen Jang Jigae, Crispy Corvina with banchan

The Jak gok bap (brown rice and beans medley) is the legit version, not the white rice kind with a few beans in it.

Legit jak gok bap

Kimchi Jigae

Spicy pork bulgogi: winner of 2nd annual Korean bbq cookoff

banchan (their kak doo gi - the radish kimchi - is to die for)

more banchan.

If you can brave the smell and all the Korean (although their menu now has English translations) and sometimes, a wait, you will definitely be a return customer. There is no English sign outfront so just look for the suite number or a line of people waiting at lunch/dinner. Parking lot is usually crowded but never an issue.

I wasn't initially going to review this place since I've never ordered the Cheonggukjang before but since this is my go-to place for all things authentic Korean, I feel it deserves a review. I mean, considering that they even won "best pork" at the 2nd annual Korean cook off proves that they can serve more than just Cheonggukjang. Besides, I might try to brave the smell and order the Cheonggukjang next time and realize what I've been missing.

Olympic Cheonggukjang
2528 W Olympic Blvd
Ste 104
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 480-1107

Olympic Cheonggukjang on Urbanspoon
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