Monday, January 24, 2011

Ondal 2

The name "Ondal" refers to a Korean commoner from back in the day of the Three Kingdoms. His nickname was "Babo Ondal," or "Stupid Ondal," for his simple-minded idiocies (think Don Quixote). Though simple, he became a renown general known for his bravery. Similarly, Ondal 2 is a restaurant that features simple food and common preparations. Everything at Ondal 2 is comforting and their most popular items are the ones that come out steaming in hot pots.

Before the hot pots are the side dishes.

Every Korean spot serves a sea of side dishes, but these were exceptional. Though some are boring (broccoli), others make a mark (toasted seaweed).

Maybe the side dishes left such an impression because half were so mediocre and half were so good. I guess with that many side dishes, some are bound to hit the bullseye.

My family and I enjoyed two hot pot dishes.

The first was the Spicy Galbi Jjim. My mom is a galbi jjim master, and she sets a high standard, but this one was really good. Galbi jjim is essentially a Korean braised short rib dish. The preparation is often reminiscent of a stew, and this spicy rendition was no different. The spicy broth was sweet and addictive, but the floating gems made this dish unforgettable. The mass amounts of rice cakes, vegetables, and tender beef made the dish look like twenty adults trying to squeeze into a single kiddie pool. Each bite was full of flavor and the beef soaked up just enough spice to make me go back for more. My only issue is that the broth by itself was a bit too spicy. I used to love over-the-top spicy stuff, but recently my stomach lining and sweat glands begged me to put my penchant for spicy food to rest. These days I prefer embers to bonfires, and though this dish wasn't a bonfire, it definitely wasn't an ember either.

The Spicy Crab Soup is what put Ondal 2 on the map. This dish is all about its tajuu kage bunshin no jutsu. You think you're ordering one dish, but it splits off into four. Though they're not exact clones of each other, they all come from the same crabs. If you didn't get that reference at all, it's okay. That might be a good thing. Don't be scared; continue reading.

The soup starts as a piping, spicy stew, brimming with vegetables. The soup tastes great at this point, and as the soup continues to bubble and reduce, it slowly gets spicier.

The server then uses the carapaces as a vessel to mix the carapace meat, some rice, and some bean sprouts together. I usually love the meat from the carapace, but unfortunately, I think the flavors I love got lost in the heat.

Next is the sujebi.

Sujebi is a traditional type of seafood soup in Korea that contains pulled dough flakes.

The sujebi was my favorite part of the dish.

The dough flakes were just the right thickness and the soup was hitting the sweet spot in terms of spiciness.

The soup still tasted like crab and only a few vegetable remnants from the original stew got in the way of enjoying the sujebi.

The final stage of this dish is the fried rice. Using the same pot, the server dumps in a load of rice, kimchi, seaweed, sesame leaf, ground sesame, and garlic.

The pot still has a little bit of soup at this point, but you don't really taste the crab by the time the fried rice is done.

The fried rice was good, but pretty standard. I wanted it to taste more of crab than just a kimchi fried rice. Actually, I wanted every step of this dish to taste more of crab, but maybe I was just expecting too much.

The meal ends with a bowl of shikhye. Most shikhyes are really sweet, but this housemade one was more refreshing than sweet, which was welcome after the feast we had.

The meal was overflowingly satisfying, the service was great, and the owner of this joint is endearing. When I go back again, I'll probably pass on the crab, get the galbi jjim with less spice, and maybe try something new. But that galbi jjim is so darn good that it might be a while before I try something new.

Ondal 2
4566 W. Washington Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90016
(323) 933-3228

GET: Free Side Dishes; Spicy Galbi Jjim; Free Shikhye.

1 comment:

  1. Oh no...I totally got the reference. Still need to try this place...


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