Monday, February 16, 2009

Chunju Han-il Kwan: No Mas to V-Day

Ugh, Commercialized Couples Fiesta day. Another year of obnoxious helium balloons and ugly bouquets. But worse of all? Jacked up restaurant menus. See, the balloons and flowers don’t affect me so much in direct terms but the restaurant thing?? The last thing I need on the V-day is a restaurant that offers a “Couples Menu” that I will NOT be ordering.

Well, the Sun, Debs and I had resolved a long time ago that we would give the finger to V-day ’09 by grabbing McDonald’s drive-thru and staying in watching endless episodes of Friends on the Saturday. But because people “in love” are super obnoxious throughout the month of February, I made sure to steer away from potential danger-zones for this week’s Friday-Night-Dinner.

Enter Chunju Han-il Kwan (CHiK) – a small neon-lit eatery in a seedy looking plaza in Korea-Town. We would be SO SAFE from Coupley-ness here. ChiK is the complete opposite of the V-day restaurant: it’s ugly, it’s cheap, and the food actually matters.

(I love purple rice)

(Banchan Fiesta)

Mmmm…yes, the food DEFINITELY mattered. The words, “Budae-Jigae” were singing in my mind through the whole drive from the apartment to K-town. For those who don’t know what the ef I’m talking about, Budae-Jigae translates into “War-Stew” (HA – take THAT mushy lovely-dovey V-day!). Well, that’s the Korean translation. In Dorothy lingo, it translates into “A beautiful pot of bubbly, spicy soup with spam, sausage, fish cake, rice cake, veggies, ramen and, for good measure, cheeeeese.” It’s a mouthful, but it’s a fantastic mouthful.

(Bubbling Beautiful Budae-Jigae)

On top of the Budae-Jigae ($24.99 which can easily feed three), we ordered the Potato Pajun/Potato “Pancake” ($10.99). God bless the Koreans for coming up with the concept of banchans (free side dishes that are doled out to your table once you sit your ass down) because I was literally starving by the time we got to CHiK and the smell of food from the neighboring table seriously wasn’t helping. I have to say, CHiK’s banchans are the best and most all-inclusive of all the Korean joints I’ve been to in LA. There must have been more than nine side-dishes! I happily chomped away on the seasoned kelp (I love seaweed in all forms) and the kimchee-d fish cake but it wasn’t long before the pajun was brought to the table and – woah – was it huge. And thank God it WAS a huge portion because it tasted effin’ AMAZING! It was almost like a hashbrown in chewy and moist form. It was beautiful. Even though I was ooh-ing over the pajun, I was still most excited about the Budae-Jigae. The broth is great. Really great. I usually can’t take spicy food (which SUCKSASS because I love spicy stuff!) but I had no problems whatsoever with the soup…and I really do think it was psychological. That is, the soup was so good that I subconsciously forbad my palate to be unable to take it in.

(The lovechild of Hashbrown and Pancake)

I did think though, that there wasn’t enough ramen but, apparently, you can order the stew with extra noodles. Service is great (cheerful ahjumas) and so is the atmosphere (i.e. NOT lovey-dovey). We were stuffed and it still came to only about $16.00 a person. That’s right, $16.00 and I’m probably happier and better-fed than the couples who are doling out $154.00 for their February 14th meal.

**Special Mention: Props to Sunny for her multi-talents. CHiK night saw her exercising her mad skilllllz in eating, driving, AND translating! Yep, she’s a keeper.

FOOD: 4/5

3450 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 480-1799

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