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Family-Style Dining: Dining for this event has been designated as Family-Style. The food bill will be split evenly between all attendees. Attendees will be responsible for paying for their own beverages. Please note that flexibility is an important part of family-style dining, and if you want to take a chance on attending, you have to be amenable to what the group/AO will order. You don't have to eat everything that is ordered, but everyone pays equally, whether you eat everything or not. Why this policy? The goal for family-style dining is to allow for the entire group to sample as wide a variety of dishes as possible. If one or more attendees choose to order on their own, that limits the group's choices, which defeats the purpose of what Family-Style Dining is all about. If this definition of Family-Style Dining doesn't feel comfortable, this may not be the right type of event for you.
Lately, I've been on a real Korean restaurant kick with my last outings revolving around duck, but now it's time for a pork fest, specifically at Baek Hwa Jung, which I read in an article was one of the favorite restaurants of Chef Roy Choi of Kogi fame. In fact, you can read that article below, word for word.
You may have driven past Baek Hwa Jung 200 times, and unless you happened to sniff the air, chances are pretty good that you never considered slowing down. But if you stroll down Olympic in the early evening, the sweet, burnt-pork vapors drifting from the restaurant are enough to make you weep, or at least to break into a happy trot toward the source of that magnificent smoke.
Almost every restaurant in Koreatown specializes in one dish or another. It is our good fortune that this one decided to specialize in daeji galbi, barbecued pork ribs. Even if you prefer the pork at Hamji Park, the other great rib specialist in the area, it is hard to resist these tender, caramelized, char-flecked bones.
Still, for all the magnificence of the ribs, Baek Hwa Jung is not quite a barbecue restaurant, and its pork is sizzled over a fire in the open kitchen rather than at a grill set into your table. Every table at the restaurant will probably have an order of daeji galbi on it at some point in the evening.
But the restaurant's other famous specialty is gool bossam, a simmered pork-belly dish served here in its most rustic version (a more elegant take is at Kobawoo over on Vermont Avenue) — which is an elaborate, communal course ideally suited to a night of serious drinking, a fatty, spicy, highly flavored thing that leans into your second bottle of soju like a motorcyclist grinding into a curve. An order of the ribs and an order of the bossam, plus maybe a spicy, stewlike jjigae if you're in the mood, is more than enough for four. Are there panchan, the small plates that traditionally precede a Korean meal? Sure, about 10 of them, plus a delicious bowl of bean sprouts in clear broth.
But there is the matter of the gool bossam, which has more parts than a Revell dragster and may be more complicated to assemble: a pound or so of sliced belly arranged around the platter like dominoes, a mound of scarlet turnip kimchi, a dozen shucked oysters if you order them, and a special, mild yet pungent cabbage kimchi stacked as precisely as two decks of cards. There will be leaves to wrap things in, in this case the sweet, yellow inner leaves of napa cabbage cooked just enough to make them supple, and a small dish of sliced raw chilies and garlic. One dish holds a crimson chili sauce you are meant to dip your oysters into, and another holds an extra-salty dip made with tiny shrimp. You sluice, pile and arrange your chosen ingredients on a leaf of the cabbage, fold, and dip into the shrimp sauce — superb — and repeat until you see the bottom of the plate. And if you don't see the bottom of the plate, the waitress will pack up the pork and the kimchi for you, and give you the directions for making a tasty soup with them at home. Don't tell Choi, but I think you can make a pretty good taco with them, too.
Suffice to say that the ribs, the pork belly and possibly the oysters will be on the menu tonight as well as other dishes we may find interesting, possibly even Yuk Hwe, which I read about in a Yelp review. Yuk Hwe is basically a Korean version of steak tartare.
The dish was described as having julienned raw beef with the fat removed, then seasoned with soy sauce, garlic, salt, pepper, sesame oil and maybe a touch of sugar) and served with julienned korean pear, raw egg yolk, pine nuts and chopped spring onion, which you mix all up and then enjoy. Whatever we eat, it'll be a night spent with great company, so please come and join me.