Grandma Kim’s Korean BBQ

My BFF Maya and her husband Shaun arrived to Los Angeles on Sunday from Portland! Next Saturday is Kevin and my wedding and they arrived a week early to relax in the California sun. This was also their chance to catch up with their old friends in LA.

It was Mother’s Day and we knew that many restaurants would be packed to celebrate the special holiday, so we went to the un-sexiest place of all – Korean BBQ. We knew that it wouldn’t be too busy and we were right. When we arrived at Grandma Kim’s, Maya and my old lunch joint in Canoga Park, the place was virtually empty! Score!

We frequented this join when we worked together in West Hills many, many years ago.  We would sneak out for lunch and come back with our clothes saturated in garlic funk … but we didn’t care.  There is nothing special about this mom-and-pop joint, but we always found refuge in this little place.

Our favorite: Tofu hot pot, especially delicious on a sizzling hot summer day!

Afterward, Shaun went back to the hotel and Maya and I headed to Encino for some afternoon snack. We went to Coral Tree Café. We were in the mood for hot tea or coffee but it was so hot outside that we settled for mango smoothies, and Godiva chocolate cake.

The drink was good but it tasted like citrusy soap from Lush!

This was a slice of heaven on a plate!

Spending time with Maya made me realize how much I’ve missed her. Six more days until the big day!

Whitney …

Lunch (12:30 p.m.): I ate two pieces of mochi wrapped in seaweed for lunch. I had no energy to cook anything, after spending the last two days in bed from what felt like a cold, so I just heated up mochi blocks I had in the freezer from the new year. I’m so glad that I’m feeling much better now.

Dinner (6:00 p.m.): Galbi and soon dobu for dinner at Tofu-Ya on Sawtelle Blvd. I had a bowl of rice, plates of banchan, and a few slices of spicy pork that Kevin ordered.

We wanted to go to Lawry’s for dinner (we had a $25 gift certificate that was about to expire) but was told that it would be a 3 hour wait (this is why I don’t like Valentine’s Day)  … so we just drove to Sawtelle. Our first choice was Sawtelle Kitchen but it was closed so we went across the street to Tofu-Ya.

We stopped by Yogurtland for some swirly dessert.

Greatest Love of All” was the first English song that I memorized and sang at my 5th grade graduation (not solo, of course), and always held a special place in my heart.  And I remember crying hearing this song for the first time.  I hope Whitney is in better place now.

Stamina Bowl

Breakfast (9:30 a.m.): I decided to call this dish “stamina bowl,” because it is packed with some serious good stuff! It has about two cups of shredded cabbage, yamaimo, natto, kimchi, and pork slices, on the bed of rice, served with goma sauce and ponzu.

Lunch (1:30 p.m.): I’m such a creature of habit. I had the same “stamina bowl” for lunch. I can’t get enough of this yummy dish.

Dinner (9:00 p.m.): Tiffany’s boyfriend Jesse is in town this weekend for his birthday so a bunch of us went to Hamjipark in Korea Town for some pork goodness. Shannon, Raf, Kevin, and I shared two orders of pork short ribs and some banchan and salad. I’m so proud that I didn’t drink any alcohol!

This restaurant specializes and is famous for pork dishes, but I have to admit that the food was mediocre at best. Servers were nice but they virtually disappeared after they took orders (even that took forever). I can’t figure out what’s so great about this place.  This is one of the only times that I didn’t agree with Anthony Bourdain … but dinner with friends was a lot of fun!

Not Much Love for I Love Tofu and BBQ

When my boyfriend and I first discovered that there is a Korean restaurant that served some of our favorite dishes like soft tofu stew bubbling away in a hot pot in Soondubuchigae and a hearty bowl of cold buckwheat noodle in Naengmyeon nearby, we were super excited. It was such a welcoming news because there aren’t too many Korean or Asian restaurants in Burbank. I should actually say that there aren’t too many restaurants in the area in general, other than a few vanilla chain restaurants in the Downtown area. I love this town, don’t get me wrong, but it’s definitely lagging in a culinary race, falling behind its neighboring Glendale and Pasadena, and light years behind Studio City and other parts of the Valley.

My excitement over the Korean restaurant was short lived, however, with I Love Tofu and BBQ in Glendale, where the food was ordinary and the service was much to be desired.

The restaurant is located in the place where Takeshi Ramen used to reside on Brand Boulevard in Glendale. The restaurant looked cleaner and roomier than its former life as a Japanese noodle shop. It doesn’t have the grill at each table that allows patrons to cooks their own meat but it still serves many of the favorite BBQs.  When we went to the restaurant for the second time (we went there several months prior and came out not overly satisfied with the food and the service, but we decided to give it another shot), it was a Saturday afternoon. The waitress gave us a menu with lunch specials on it so we ordered a combination from there. When we began to order our lunch, we were told that the lunch specials were only available on weekdays and that we had to order from the regular, dinner menu. I know that Korean food aren’t cheap but spending about $15 for lunch for each of us was much more than we anticipated. Eeek.

My boyfriend ordered the combination of spicy pork BBQ and tofu hot pot. The hot pot was very good, especially with the raw egg on top that eventually cooks in the spicy bubbling soup, but the pork was under-marinated and a bit on the bland side.

The cold buckwheat noodle that I ordered was delicious with noodles cooked to prefect consistency (I like mine a little chewy), but marinated beef short ribs, or Galbi, was way too fatty for my taste.   Perhaps the best part of the dining experience is the rice that is served in a small, pot hot.  You can pour some hot water on an almost empty but still warm pot and eat the rice that got stuck at the bottom which is crunchy and flavorful!

It was also unfortunate that despite the fact that we were one of the only customers in the place, we got no service and we had to hunt down someone who glanced our way just to get some more kimchi!

In the neighborhood where decent Korean restaurants are scarce, I’m sure we’ll visit I Love Tofu and BBQ again but that’s only if I’m attacked by a serious Korean food withdrawal and I don’t have it in me to drive to Korea Town for real, tasty delicacy. I’m sure I will visit HK Market down the street more often so that I can make my own at home.

I Love Tofu and BBQ
126 North Brand Boulevard, Glendale, CA 91203
★★★☆☆