Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Korean BBQ That Ended with a Kiss

Usually I'm not very fanciful when it comes to giving a title to my blog entries, but this time I just couldn't resist. As for the kiss, I'll let you know about that a little later, but for now, let's talk Korean BBQ, specifically All You Can Eat (AYCE) Korean BBQ at Mu Dung San in Koreatown.

I love eating Korean BBQ. There's just something about cooking meat to your own specification that's pretty appealing. It also doesn't hurt that instant gratification quickly ensues. Once the meat is done, wrap it in lettuce, take a bite and voila, this carnivore is one happy gal.

While I have my favorite Korean BBQ haunts, I'm always up for trying different places. I can't quite remember how I found out about Mu Dung San, an All You Can Eat (AYCE) Korean BBq joint, but for some reason it stuck in my head so one afternoon, I decided to check it out for lunch. Initially, I wasn't sure if I even wanted to eat there. The last time I dined at an AYCE
Korean BBQ, it was at Manna Korean BBQ and I was quite underwhelmed. However, since I was really craving Korean BBQ and was also a bit budget conscious at the time, the price of $16.99 per person was just right for my pocketbook. I managed to corral corral my niece to join me and off we went.

When I walked inside Mu Dung San, my first thought was that it was smaller than it looked from the outside, but that was before I noticed two other separate dining rooms from the one we walked into. We soon sat down and were handed menus and thankfully, they were in English, which isn't always the case when you dine in Koreatown. It didn't take long to decide, so between the two of us we went for the pork belly and marinated beef (bulgogi) and also ordered the seafood pancake and cold noodles with skate fish to share.

Dishes of various panchan soon came our way, which I didn't find out of the ordinary, but still tasty. Also, out came a large salad with a dressing I couldn't identify, but still enjoyed. Instead of the large lettuce leaves that usually accompany Korean BBQ, we were served square rice wrappers. My last experience with those rice wrappers was at Shik Do Rak, which I found to be too oily. Thankfully, the oil content of the Mu Dung San versions were to a much lesser degree.

Then out came the meat and I could already tell the difference from Manna. Manna's meat was ultra thin whereas the pork belly and bulgogi in front of me were more substantial. With the meat in front of us, were definitely ready to get cooking. Ahhhh...there's just nothing like the smell of meat that's grilling. As for the taste, suffice to say that I was very pleased. The marinade used for the bulgogi was flavorful and cooking the pork belly extra long meant you got extra smoky caramelized fat along with the pork meat itself. How can your tastebuds not love you?

When it comes to the rice wrappers, I'm still not quite sure how to eat
with them. I tried wrapping the meat and some of that dressed lettuce into the rice wrapper like a spring roll/burrito, but it had a tendency to tear. Finally, I treated it more like a tortilla, where I would tear the wrapper into small pieces and use it to scoop the meat and lettuce before popping into my mouth. So if anyone can give me the scoop, that'd be great.

As for the cold spicy noodles, I couldn't get into them. The noodles were not very firm and for some reason, they tasted a bit bland. The seafood pancake; however, was a hit. It was thick and "meaty" with ingredients. I Just looking into a cross section, it's very easy to identify the octopus, the crab and veggies that comprised this dish. I also enjoyed the crispiness of the outer edges.

Overall, for an All You Can Eat Korean BBQ place, it's pretty good. I wouldn't consider Mu Dung San a destination Korean BBQ place, but it offers good value for what you get and sometimes that's all you can ask for. $16.99 per person, not including tax and gratuity, is definitely not bad. Something else to note, they give you a pretty good portion for that price. My niece and I found no need to order extra meat. What we had was just right.

So do you want to know about the kiss? :) Well, it's not what you think. I heard about a Korean dessert shop called Ice Kiss and since we had just enough room for something sweet, we drove on over there. The Ice Kiss in the shop's name refers to the fact that their specialty is serving Bingsu, a Korean Shaved Ice Dessert that usually consists of shaved ice and ice cream that is topped with any or all of the following: sweetened red beans, fruits, fruit preserves, syrup, candies, cereal, rice cakes, etc. The shaved ice itself is different than what you'd expect. It has a finer, almost fluffy texture to it.

The ice cream choices include chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and green tea. When it comes to ordering, there are different concoctions to choose from, all with different toppings. It just really depends on what you're in the mood for. Their shaved ice desserts come in different sizes, and if you choose the medium, it's actually served in a dog dish and is enough for 3 to 4 people.

For our visit, we shared a small, but even the small was a pretty good size. I don't remember what it was called, but it was basically chocolate ice cream topped with strawberries, kiwi, banana, chocolate sauce, cocoa krispies and whipped cream. It was very colorful and definitely satisfied my sweet tooth, but in truth, I was a bit overwhelmed.

There was just so many toppings and believe it or not, compared to pictures I've seen of so
me of their other desserts, the one I had was pretty basic. Pricewise, this is no cheap kiss. Expect to spend $6.99 and up. I definitely appreciated the finer shaved ice because I felt like I was eating powdered snow; however, too much of a good thing is sometimes too much of a good thing. If I did go back, I'd ask for less of a deluge in ingredients.

So ends my afternoon at Koreatown. Starting off with hot Korean BBQ and ending it with an Ice Kiss is definitely a good day in my book.

Mu Dung San
1040 S. Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(323) 737-9292

To see Mu Dung San pics, go to:

Ice Kiss
3407 W. 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 382-4776

To see Ice Kiss pics, go to:

Mu Dung San on Urbanspoon


Anonymous said...

i had trouble with the rice wrapper at first too. the easiest way i've found was to start with the meat. i lay a piece of meat down, then layer with whatever panchan i want. usually stack radish and then the onion/lettuce salad on top. lastly, take the rice wrapper and lay it on top over the entire thing. then take your chopsticks from both side of the little stack, and pinch it together into it's own little burrito. the chopsticks should hold it all together. try it!

pleasurepalate said...

Thanks for the great info. I'll definitely keep it in mind the next time I find myself presented with the rice wrappers. :-D

Raven said...

I usually hold the rice wrapper in my hand and place some meat (dipped in sauce) inside and wrap it up. You're supposed to eat it all in one bite, but I've never been able to manage that; it's too much.

Some people are graceful enough to wrap the meat in the wrapper using their chopsticks, but I'm lacking in the grace department.

pleasurepalate said...

raven: Thanks for visiting my blog. Isn't it how funny how with some foods it seems like you need instructions, but sometimes, you just have to go for it. :)

Sonia said...

Hey!!! Love this type of food. Been to ice kiss a couple of times. They make some kick-ass pat-bing-soo... its Korean for the shaved ice thingy... Your foodie blog is pretty awesome!

pleasurepalate said...

Sonia: Thanks for stopping by and I'm glad you enjoy my blog. :)

Anonymous said...

I was wondering, and sorry to leave a comment so late, if whether or not Mu Dung San has any choices of hotpots on the menu and if they take reservations. I'm planning my birthday around there and I've been totally convinced to visit Ice Kiss cause that picture looks goorgeous.

Thank you for sharing!

pleasurepalate said...

I don't remember ever seeing hot pots on the menu, but then when I go there, it's all about the Korean BBQ to me. Maybe, you should give them a call directly?