When it comes to planning where I'm going to take my dining group, Pleasure Palate, my bookmarks are chock full of links to dining possibilities. Once or twice a week, I take a look and ask myself, "Which restaurant is worth a visit in the next few weeks?" When I make my decision, the meal pops up on the dining calendar. After re-reading an LA Times article about a Koreantown restaurant called Jangchung-Dong Wong Jokbal, I knew this is where I wanted to go.
So what exactly is Jokbal? Basically, it's a braised pork foot and shank and apparently, one restaurant serves the best version. Jangchung-Dong Wong Jokbal is a satellite of a renowned braised pork foot specialty restaurant in Seoul. Several years ago, the owner of the Seoul restaurant came to Los Angeles, bringing with her a sample of the braising liquid she uses. She proceeded to train her nephew-in-law on how to make jokbal properly. With that knowledge, Jangchung-Dong Wong Jokbal came to be.
Now that you have a little background, let's talk about the food. As is standard in many Korean restaurants, the meal starts with an array of panchan. The panchan was just okay, nothing to write home about. Along with the panchan also came dipping sauces, lettuce, jalapeno and raw garlic for the jokbal itself.
After noshing on the panchan for awhile, the jokbal arrived in all its glory. Its presentation almost reminded me of flower petals because of the way the meat was sliced and fanned out.
The jokbal could be dipped in the sauces and eaten on their own. Another alternative is for the jokbal to be wrapped in lettuce along with the raw garlic, a jalapeno with a dollop of the sauce. I did it both ways and both ways were delicious. The pork was tender and I loved how the ribbons of fat around the pork slices had a soft, gelatinous texture. There was a definite soy sauce flavor that I tasted as well as a bit of sweetness that may have come from some type of sugar. Other than that, I don't know what other braising ingredients were used, but it simply didn't matter because this jokbal was amazing.
Not so amazing and unfortunately, not very good were the other dishes we ordered along with the Jokbal, which included Pan Fried Squid and Pan Fried Spicy Pork Hock. The squid was way too chewy and the pork fried pork hock was overcooked. Also, not only did both dishes look alike, the sauces they were cooked in tasted the same. Unfortunately, the Pan Fried Spicy Pork Hock wasn't spicy at all, which made it even more difficult to differentiate it from the Pan Fried Squid.
Another disappointment was their Seafood Pancake. It looked promising when it came out, thick and hearty. I liked that the pancake's surface was nicely browned, but I think the seafood must have been invisible, because there was little to none to be seen or eaten. There was a little bit of shrimp, but not enough to really merit calling this dish a Seafood Pancake.
The only dish other than the jokbal that tasted really good was their Buckwheat Yam Noodles with vegetables and topped with a chili sauce. The noodles had a nice chewy texture and the chili sauce brought the heat that the Pan Fried Spicy Pork Hock was missing.
Suffice to say, the jokbal is truly the star of this restaurant. While you certainly can order other things from the menu, if all you had was the jokbal, that would be enough to make this meal one of the best you've ever had.
Jangchung-Dong Wong Jokbal
425 S. Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90020