Tofu stew at Park’s BBQ, Koreatown, Los Angeles

Among the hundreds of restaurants in LA’s vast Koreatown, Park’s seems to be the favorite of LA’s chef community. The decor is neat, the service professional, the cooking accessible, and the menu compact enough to make sense of. And it’s in a long strip mall, which makes it very LA indeed.

Park’s barbecue selection is primo, with over a dozen cuts of beef, shrimp, and mushrooms to grill over a gas and charcoal burner set into the table in front of you (giant, cylindrical range hoods above carry the smoke away). We chose the standard bulgogi (marinated beef with onions) which came with bright green leaves of romaine lettuce leaves to turn your barbecue into little tacos, mixing in sauces, banchan (side dishes) and condiments to taste.

One of my friends piled on the spicy gochuchang (red pepper paste) and other chile-based toppings, but the other wasn’t into spice. So I was a bit nervous when a menacingly bubbly bowl of tofu stew (soon dubu jiggae) arrived in the deep red hue of chiles. Normally tofu stew is both spicy hot and ow-hot, but we’d ordered it not spicy, and I was fearful that the kitchen had confused our order. Thankfully not. The spice was subtle and did not detract at all from the mix of tofu, green onions and tiny bay shrimp. She loved it.

Park’s mul naeng myun (sweet potato noodles in cold beef broth) was a refreshing balance to all that heat and spice. Next time, though, I would order one “trial size” ($5) for three people because the full size ($9) was just too much after the other generous dishes.

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