Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Korean Royal Cuisine at YongSuSan (Koreatown, Los Angeles)

I've always wanted to try Korean "royal cuisine" ever since I stayed up all night for weeks watching Dae Jang Geum, so YongSuSan has long been on my radar, but I never actually went until very recently. 

Their prices have increased from what they listed on the website, but since this was a long anticipated visit, I went with the most expensive tasting menu, the Royal Court Table D'Hote for $49.99 ("table d'hote" means a prix fixe set menu, a phrase that is rarely used in the US)
YongSuSan is one of the fanciest Korean restaurants we have in town, as you can see from the entrance.
There's no grand dining room inside though, as they have several private rooms and a small dining area for those not requiring a private room. The dining room is not particularly "fancy" compared to restaurants in West Hollywood, but I like its quietness and the service.
The Royal Court menu changes seasonally. For mine, it starts with a "soft creamy porridge".

There isn't a lot of flavor in the porridge but that's what makes it work so well for cleansing your palate and also soothing you, getting you ready for your big meal.

Tofu ala Yongsusan. Doesn't seem like a very "traditional" dish, a salad with a tart dressing.
Next is two cold vegetable dish:
clear mungbean jelly with beef, mushroom, seaweeds, and
mixed vegetable salad with bean sprout, radish, apricot
I've always loved the texture of japchae and the mungbean jelly here is very similar. Don't be scared by the red sauces here, as the waitress told us, nothing here is really spicy.

Tuna "a la Yongsusan" is seared on the edges and served with a little slice of chili.
The skewered sea scallops with mushrooms were excellent. Both the scallops and mushrooms were very juicy.
The abalone may be my favorite. It was very fresh with a great texture! You don't need to dress something like this with a lot of dressing, and they didn't.
One of the bigger courses is the Sin Sun Ro (Beef, seafood, and vegetable broth over royal fire pot). This soup is supposed to contain "all that nature can provide" so it has beef, seafood, chicken, and vegetables
Because it keeps boiling at the table, the chicken was a bit tough, but the other ingredients were good and the broth is again very soothing.

For the short rib course, you can choose between bbq or kalbi jjim which is marinated in a sweet soy sauce.
You are paying a high price at this restaurant, but the quality of the kalbi is noticeably higher than other places and was unusually tender!

Eun Dae Gu Jo Rim (Simmered black cod)
This was unfortunately no longer hot when it arrived at our table.

We were already so full at this point, but there are more to come. There were egg battered fish cake, zucchini , and shrimp
A plate of colorful gu jeol pan (nine ingredients with "crepe")
Add the nine ingredients on the mung bean "crepe" and dip it into the sauce. This looks very simple, but their crepe here is so good and chewy!

There's only one kimchi in this meal, but it's a standout. The Kaesung style wrapped kimchi is a pickled cabbage stuffed with various vegetables inside.
Again, the food here is not really spicy, and same goes with this kimchi. In fact, it was extremely refreshing. More than the spicy red sauce, this is all about the pickling.

For the final savory course, each guest chooses between soup and rice or cold noodles. Since there were two of us, we had one of each.

The soybean paste soup was served with bean rice
The cold noodles or naeng myun is chewy and served with slivers of cucumber and radish. Both of the two were quite good, which one to choose is just a matter of your mood and the weather.
A cup of sweet ersimmon punch with ginger, cimmanon, and honey to wash it all down (we didn't get the cookies promised on the website).
I had a good first meal at YongSuSan. While it's perhaps the priciest Korean restaurant we have, it's actually a pretty good value given both the quantity and the quality. A Korean friend of mine told me that they're actually famous for the Kaesung style rice cake soup! The different tasting menus are not just different pricing tiers but actually quite different in style as well. I definitely need to return for the rice cake soup, and fortunately they do have an a la carte menu (and a cheap lunch tasting menu, too).

950 S Vermont Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 388-3042
Yongsusan on Urbanspoon


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