Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ttu Rak: And you Think McDonald's is Unhealthy?

I was determined to try poesot maeuntang kalkuksu** (i.e. spicy mushroom stew) after hearing Sunny talk about it. We searched high and low and far and wide (I even e-mailed Jonathan Gold for help on where to find this dish but even the legendary Mr. Gold couldn’t find a place) and we finally managed to locate a place on Vermont Ave. that claimed to serve this stew. We were so pumped about it and planned to try it for this week's Friday night dinner. We strolled up to the alleged address, however, only to find that it had been converted into (yet another) Korean fried chicken place.

(Banchans: proof that Koreans are good people)

Well, the good thing about K-town is that you’re never short on options. We hopped back into the car and drove to the not-too-distant Ttu Rak instead. After spending fifteen minutes trying to make sense of the “Korean Fusion” menu, we opted for a two person portion of the spicy short ribs and octopus stew (~$38.00/2 people portion) to split between the three of us.

(English picture wall menu: Where the non-Korean speakers conglomerate)

Again, I had a little banchan fiesta – no joke, I could make a meal of those small dishes. They brought nine different side dishes to the table and though they weren’t as good as the ones at Chunju Han-il Kwan, they were still pretty satisfying. Plus, they had one of my favorites – the potato chunks :) On top of that, they also gave us a bowl of bean-paste soup each. I love Koreans and their food generosity.

(Beautiful Bubbling Stew)

And speaking of food generosity, the stew itself was no paltry portion. It came in a giant metal vat, chock full of short ribs, octopus, veggies and glassy noodles. Debs and Sunny took care of the meat (which they both claimed to be amazingly tender) while I focused on the bits of chewy tentacles. The broth was great too – spicier than the budae jigae soup at Chunju Han-il Kwan but still tolerable for my non-Korean palate. The stew got better and better as it boiled on – when I dove in for my second helping, the soup had thickened, intensifying all the flavors. Even better? The glassy noodles had more time to soak up the spiciness and instead of being individual threads of noodle, they glomped together into a strandy mass of flavor. I know it sounds unappealing but, trust me, it was awesome stuff.

(Octopus swimming in spicy broth)

When we had pretty much emptied out the vat, save the leftover soup and a handful of veggies and meat, the server did something amazing to the pot. He threw in a giant serving of rice topped off with a layer of cheese which melted over and into the rest of the ingredients. Oh, the beauty of gooey cheese. That on top of the fact that the rice at the bottom of the pot had become nice and crunchily crusty. Yes, that cheesy “fried rice” brought happiness to our table. Even though it was supposed to be a two person portion, the three of us only barely managed to finish everything. THAT’S how generous the portion was.

(Cheesy Rice: THE reason why I was at Ttu Rak)

Service was good and bad. Our waiter was pretty young (and, according to the Sun and the Debs, was also “pretty cute” – I wouldn’t know, he was way too young for my liking) and you could tell that he had planned to spend his Friday night at the karaoke bar (or whatever young Koreans do nowadays) instead of working the nighttime shift at the restaurant. Not that he was unfriendly or anything, but he wasn’t attentive and was texting on his phone for most of the time. But my heart was warmed by the fact that the restaurant gives a free bottle of Yakult to each customer at the end of the meal to quell our over-satiation. That was really sweet :D

(See the strands of cheese?)

All the food, plus tax and tips came out to $15 per person. Not bad at all. And, come on, it’s cheese + rice. I would line up to dole out $15 for that!

**Note: If anyone knows where to get
poesot maeuntang kalkuksu in LA, please leave me a message!!**

FOOD: 4/5

TTU RAK ($$)
125 N Western Ave.

Los Angeles,
CA 90004

(323) 960-0853

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