STAR KING KOREAN BBQ
FLAVORFUL MEAT GALORE
Amid all the fancy dining spread out over Los Angeles, filled with white tablecloths and refined fare, smoky, do-it-yourself Korean BBQ has a firm grip on the L.A. culinary landscape. It may not be a glamorous meal but it is filling, hearty and borderline gluttonous. Well, that’s how it used to be when All You Can Eat (AYCE) Korean BBQ was the rage. Now it’s more about choosing quality meats— quality over quantity —and one of the leaders in the game is Star King.
The Star King name is well known throughout Koreatown but the one near the corner of Wilshire and Western, owned by Jackie Yoo, is independent of the chain and serves some of the best cuts of meat in town. In fact, Star King is the only Korean restaurant to serve Piedmontese beef and the only restaurant in Greater Los Angeles to serve the Tomahawk Rib Eye.
The ever popular Korean BBQ is an experience to say the least. Like I said, this isn’t fine dining so know that your clothes will smell smoky afterwards, and while you can order some pretty nice wines, at least at Star Fish, it is mostly meat and beer (think ice cold Hite) dining, along with the occasional Soju (distilled, vodka-like, rice liquor).
There’s a communal feel at Korean BBQ as you cook the meal yourself at your table via pit fire grills. If you opt for AYCE, that’s one price for all you can eat meats, side dishes, and usually a bowl of cold noodles to finish.
Star King’s Jackie Yoo grew up in the meat business and as a result she has a firm understanding of quality cuts, hence, the Piedmontese on her menu. Domestic Piedmondese are free-range and fed free-range on grass and free of antibiotics, steroids and growth hormones. The meat itself tastes fresh, clean, textured and tender.
It’s also lower in fat and calories and higher in protein while containing a higher percentage of healthy Omega 3 fat, if that’s important to you. And it tastes damn good!
“The beef is slightly more expensive than prime and less than American Wagyu and Japanese Kobe,” Jackie explains. “I also love it because this tenderness applies to the whole animal, allowing otherwise underutilized cuts to shine in interesting ways.”
The bold Tomahawk, named for its shape and weighing a hearty two-plus pounds, is a cut of meat not to be taken lightly. While it is delicious it’s not for the faint of heart, so come with an appetite if you want this bad boy. And all the Banchan (side dishes) at Star King are delicious (and refillable).
At Star King, you can order your cuts of meat ala carte, AYCE or as Combo Specials, which include several types of meats, such as Kobe Wagyu, ribeye, brisket, tongue, skirt steak, jumbo bone-in rib, marinated boneless rib, Boston butt, cheek meat, skirt meat, pork belly, marinated jumbo rib, beef belly, and pork belly, along with your choice of Chamisul soju or Hite.
A large restaurant with a chic outdoor patio, you might be tempted to enter from Wilshire Boulevard, which you can do, but the main entrance is actually around the side from Western Avenue. The back (from the Wilshire entrance) is reserved for AYCE, while the rest of the restaurant space is used for those ordering ala carte or combo specials.
One thing that threw me off when I first started eating Korean BBQ was the void, almost robotic nature of the servers. I think it’s a cultural thing but it almost feels like you’re being served by the walking dead. But at Star King, the servers actually have personalities (not over the top ones…I hate that too) and are helpful when novices don’t know all the ins and outs of the grilling game. Nice touch!
During our recent visit for dinner, we opted to select our own cuts of meat and definitely made it a point to try the Piedmontese, which tasted like a fantastic steak—hearty and flavorful to say the least.
Apart from all the magnificent meat, one of my favorite dishes was the Glass Noodles, a house specialty. They were amazing! I’m not a fan of cold noodles, which are popular among Koreans and these noodles were hot and so savory. They were all vegetables but I swore it tasted like there was meat or meat sauce to be found; not the case but the taste was spot on.
The Marinated Short Rib was also delicious and plentiful. Personally, I thought the back ribs were tasty but too fatty for me. Meanwhile, the Pork Belly was killer.
And just when you think you can’t eat any more, that’s when the second wave comes at you. Scorched Rice, also known as Nurungji, which of course is way filling and delicious, and soups, two of them—Spicy Soup and Soy Bean Soup. We could barely try them before throwing in the towel and calling it a night---full, bloated and so very satisfied.
Star King is located at 3807 Wilshire Blvd. Hours: M-F 11am-11pm; Sat-Sun 12pm to 11pm. Call 213-384-5464..
By: Jose Martinez.