When it comes to food prepared tableside, it's just one of my favorite ways to have a meal. There's just something fun about seeing your dinner prepared and cooked in front of you before being able to enjoy it. What I find interesting is that quite a lot of this tableside food preparation seems to show up at Korean restaurants with the meal usually ending with fried rice. By the way, I'm not putting Korean BBQ in this mix, simply because the patrons usually do all their cooking themselves. Some examples include my Seafood Feast at Bultaneun Cheongdamdong Jogae Gui or my Spicy Crab Soup Experience at Ondal 2. My earliest experience was actually an Octopus Meal at My Secret Recipe, which unfortunately is closed.
Another interesting thing to note is that so far, my experiences have all been seafood-based. Not that I minded, but I did wonder if there was something I was missing. It turns out I was and I found that out while reading a blog post by Josh Lurie of Food GPS about a restaurant called Ma Po Dak Gal Bi that serves tableside prepared spicy chicken. Click here to read that post! After reading through what Josh had to say, I knew I had to check this place out for myself.
Upon arriving, it was safe to say that Ma Po Dak Gal Bi was a true hole in the wall. Nothing fancy about the decor, as you can see for yourself in an earlier photo; however, I've always been more about the food than the ambiance. Unfortunately, the starter salad and the panchan wasn't too exciting and this was the first time I've also been to a Korean restaurant where kimchi didn't hit our table.
Thankfully, what followed brought smiles to all our faces because that's when the cooking started. Oil was added to a pan at our tableside grill and once heated, rice cake cylinders, sweet potatoes and marinated dark chicken meat was added and sauteed by our capable server.
Soon after, cabbage and chili sauce was added to the mix and all the ingredients were allowed to cook down a little bit before the addition of perilla leaves. More sauteeing and cooking and eventually, our meal was ready for us to dig in to.
I have to say that this spicy chicken dish was pretty good. Texturally, I enjoyed the slight chew of the rice cake cylinders and flavor-wise, the spicy notes of the perilla leaves balanced well with the sweetness of the sweet potatoes. Of course, the chili packed a nice little punch, although I ended up adding just a tad more since I wanted just a little more heat.
After we had our fill, what was left became the components of a fried rice dish. Our server came back to do some more cooking. She added a little more oil to the pan then rice, dried sea weed strips, onions and chopped kimchi vegetables and course, those ingredients took in the flavors from the previous dish. We were all a little full already, but who can resist fried rice? My group certainly couldn't, so while a lot of it came home with us, we were still able to enjoy some of it still at the restaurant.
Overall, this was a nice meal. I wouldn't say that the spicy chicken at Ma Po Dak Gal Bi is mind-blowing, but it's filling, tasty and I enjoyed every bite. It's also certainly a bonus to get fried rice out of this as well. So the next time, you're looking for some eats in Koreatown and need a break from the pork and beef madness that comes from Korean BBQ, then give a chicken a try. I'm sure Mr. Pig and Mr. Cow would love the break.
Ma Po Dak Gal Bi
3900 West Olympic Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90006
Los Angeles, CA 90006