This was basically the 4th of 5 birthday dinners I was able to go to during the first half of March (in chronological order: Newport Seafood, Lazy Ox Canteen, Urasawa, Soban, and The Spice Table). Soban is a nondescript Korean restaurant located on the western outskirts of Koreatown – my friends (Christina, Jeannie, Jolene) who were meeting me for dinner that night appeared to have trouble finding the place. We chose Soban because this group likes Korean, and beyond the typical KBBQ and soon tofu places, of course (our same exact foursome went to Kobawoo House last time, and it was a good experience).
Not sure how popular it is to the general public now that it’s been featured quite prominently in LA Weekly due to J. Gold’s glowing review, but when we we arrived around 6:30pm or so on a Thursday it wasn’t very busy, and the clientele appear to be all Korean (a confused white guy came in by himself near the end of our dinner). The four of us got menus that had English – I believe there’s a separate menu in Korean (and has more dishes listed). We ordered four items: haemul pajeon, kimchi jjigae, mae un galbi jjim, and ganjang gaejang. The first two were simple enough to most who are familiar with Korean food. The seafood pancake and kimchi stew (which had seafood and pork belly) were fairly standard versions, but executed well. A bit weird that wasabi paste was present in the soy sauce for the pancake though.
But the other two dishes really stood out. The spicy galbi jjim, while not as good as the regular one at Seongbukdong (but lighter and sweeter IMO), was very good. While it wasn’t really spicy, the spicy flavors gave the dish another dimension. The real star, though, was the ganjang gaejang. The marinated raw crab (looks like a variation of blue crab, but not sure at all) was fresh and fully of briny flavors, with plenty of bright roe as well. An order contained two crabs, still in the shell, but cut so that the meat was easy to reach. It was so good I ordered one to-go for Eugenia and Linh-Nam. Note that you should probably eat the crab ASAP: it can get a bit salty if you let it keep soaking in the soy sauce. After finishing the meat, I ate the innards with some rice and sauce – delicious!
Service was very good, despite having only one server for most of the night. I forgot to mention that they bring out 14 different kinds of banchan. Nothing outstanding, but great variety. And they were very accommodating of the silly cake the girls made for me (of a clown – evil women). I will definitely be back, for the spicy galbi jjim, and especially the crab. Maybe I’ll try to order one of their Korean items that aren’t on the English menu as well. Just another one of the homey gems in Koreatown.
Chris Hei grade: B+
4001 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90019