Park’s Barbeque – Los Angeles, California, United States

Park's Gal-bi

When I am in Los Angeles, California for work, I always try to visit Park’s Barbeque to clog my arteries with their perfectly marinated, tender and fresh Korean barbeque meats.  It’s not a Travel Channel stop by Adam Richman or Anthony Bourdain, but it is an establishment that my colleague thankfully introduced me to and definitely worth a detour to this famous restaurant.  And I do mean famous.  As you walk in, you are greeted on the right with a wall full of celebrity photos.  You have famous Asian sports stars, Olympians (Apolo Anton Ohno) and actors (extremely beautiful Jessica Alba for example).  And how can we leave out an Executive for World of Warcraft who also made the wall of fame?  Yes, all types, sizes and trades have tread their feet through those fish protected doors.  You can find this local, famous establishment at the following address in Koreatown, Los Angeles.

S Vermont Ave # D
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 380-1717

So how about that atmosphere, service and food shall we?

Outside Park’s Korean BBQ restaurant. They always have some nice cars parked out front and have valet parking should you go. I recommend parking on the side streets as it’s free.

Walking in, you enter a small corridor of an entry with the restaurant on the left behind a 5foot half wall and 100 or so photos on the right of the famous personalities who dined at this place.  The restaurant is located in a strip mall and spans two floors.  There’s valet out front, which you’ll have to do if you want to park in the front of the restaurant.  You might have to compete with the expensive sports cars typically parked there though.  You can find parking on the side streets instead, so take advantage of those free spots.  Downstairs is nicer than upstairs (and from my experience you get better service).  But, the restaurant is clean, busy and has great BBQ tables for cooking up those meaty morsels.

This is the view of the main floor right when you come into the restaurant and are greeted by the hostess.

Service is usually very good, with the servers/cooks conscientious to your food and needs.  They are quick to bring out the included Korean side dishes and your main courses.  Usually the servers are all very attentive and take turns throwing your food on the barbeque, cutting it up, flipping the meat and adding the vegetables.  However, during our last trip (which happened to be Valentine’s Day) we had horrible service at our table upstairs.  We usually sit downstairs and have always had great service, so I don’t know if it was the result of being busy, the upstairs service or some other vendetta against us.  But, our water was never filled, food was left to burn and I had to ask for our check instead of them bringing it when we were clearly done for quite some time.  Really disappointing for this type of restaurant.  Again, the service is usually much better, but this did leave a terrible taste in our mouths for sure.  I did not return on that trip, although I am sure I will sometime in the future to give it one more shot.

If not familiar with Korean food, the menu can be a bit daunting.  Thankfully I was introduced to the place by someone much more familiar with Korean barbeques.  Once you get there and sit down, you are greeted by the complimentary spread of various Korean side dishes such as numerous kimchi dishes, rice noodles, sauteed broccoli rabe, sauteed sea plant, marinated radish, Korean coleslaw, wonton wrappers, cabbage and other odds and sods that they decide to bring as it changes some each time you go.

These are the free Korean side dishes you receive prior to your succulent meat gorgefest. They get you started with various kimchi dishes, rice noodles, sauteed broccoli rabe, sauteed sea plant, marinated radish, Korean coleslaw, wonton wrappers, cabbage and other odds and sods that they decide to bring as it changes some each time you go.

Once you get past the party in your mouth Korean side dishes, it’s onto the main courses.  They don’t hesitate to start delivering these in a well oiled assembly line fashion.  Without much delay, the raw beef entrees, Seafood Pancake and Kimchi Stew and sticky rice come out.  The pancake is like a thin, dense (you can use chopsticks to pick up the pieces) seafood frittata filled with rock shrimp, green onions, and asparagus that you dip in a mild soy sauce.  Then the scrumptious Kimchi Stew, full of spicy kimchi seasoning, beef and pork part and cabbage that you scoop over your sticky rice and indulge.

These lovely morsels are the Kimchi Stew on the left, Bulgogi (Seasoned Sliced Beef) top right and Pancake with rock shrimp and green onion on the bottom center.

Then there’s the beef.  Yes, those wonderful marbleized bovine morsels that are flown in daily for as fresh as you can get.  Our staples tend to be the Bulgogi and Gal-Bi.  Bulgogi shown above, is a delicious thinly sliced sirloin/prime cut beef that is marinated to perfection.  Served with some grilled garlic, scallions and enokitake mushroom, quite a delightful combination.  Unless they get fried like our last visit when they neglected our table.  Note, you can grab the utensils yourself and flip them if Park’s employees are attentive to it.  Oh those lovely marinated prime beef short ribs, Gal-Bi (aka Galbi).  Short ribs tend to be tough and difficult to come out tender, but Park’s has it down perfectly.  They thinly cut the spare ribs around the bone so the chef can just unroll the meat on the grill.  In addition, the meat is scored so that the marinade just gets sucked into the meat.  They grill them unrolled for a little while before getting the good o’l kitchen scissors and cut up the meat.  The part of the meat closest to the bone is the toughest though, so focus on the other tender chopstick size pieces first.

This is the scrumptious Bulgogi (marinated sliced sirloin/prime beef).

 

These short ribs (Gal-Bi) are full of flavor, tender and oh so good!

I have also had the fish and special pork belly.  The fish was just alright.  The pork belly was good, but just thick bacon really.  I would stick with the beef.

Neal’s Ratings:

  • Atmosphere = B+   (limited parking, love the famous photos, clean grills, in a strip mall)
  • Service =  C    (normally a B-A grade, but horrible the last time)
  • Food = A    (really fantastic beef, stew, pancake, side dishes and good other entrees)

Ken’s House of Pancakes – Hilo, HI, United States

Ken's House of Pancakes

I had some time to kill before flying out of Hilo International Airport (ITO) and wanted to find a good local place to eat.  Taking advantage of my smartphone, I performed a local restaurant search for around Hilo.  When I travel and am looking for a restaurant, I tend to base my restaurant selection by the number of review stars on Google and of course, the style of restaurant that I am in the mood for.  Lo and behold, Ken’s House of Pancakes popped up with a respectable 4 stars.  Doing a quick search, this acclaimed diner seemed to fit my bill perfectly.  So I headed to Ken’s.

Ken’s House of Pancakes
1730 Kamehameha Ave.
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 935-8711

Ken's House of Pancakes

Ken’s was started in 1971 and has since received Reader’s Choice Awards for “Best Breakfast on the Big Island”, 14 years in a row, and “The Best Diner on the Big Island”.  So naturally I had to try their breakfast grub on my visit.  Onto the atmosphere, service and food…

Being a diner, the atmosphere is well, a diner.  Walking into the restaurant you are welcomed by the bright diner interior, large diner bar and many busy tables.  This place is busy, so get there early.  The good thing is, being a diner they can flip the tables fast so they keep customers moving through.  I lucked out as I was traveling alone and was able to snag an empty stool at the bar.  It’s worth noting that parking is very limited.  There are a good deal of spots out front, but not near enough for all of the customers.  Not to mention since the restaurant is on the corner of a busy intersection, getting in and out of the parking lot can be a pain.  Especially if you are like me and missed the restaurant as I couldn’t get over and make the turn in time off Kamehameha Ave.  I ended up parking behind Ken’s in the medium size business building just off Kanoelehua Ave.  It was quite and had a good deal of empty spots and just a short walk on the sidewalk down Kanoelehua Ave. to get to Ken’s.

Ken's House of Pancakes Restaurant

The service was great.  The waitress behind the bar was friendly, fast and kept my coffee full.  No complaints.

What a large menu!  I have to say, I like options but I felt like I could be there all day trying to decide what to order.  I was traveling by myself and couldn’t narrow my choices to just one from the menu.  Being a ‘House of Pancakes’, I had to try their pancakes.  And since I was just down from Mauna Loa, they had to be Macadamia Nut.  These buttermilk beauties were quite heavenly I got to say.  Especially when you combine these fluffy morsels with their kokonut, passion and guava flavored syrups.  To balance it out, I had to get some egg meal as well.  Alas, I settled on the very Hawaiian, and ‘Original’, Loco Moco.  How can you go wrong with 2 scoops of rice, 5oz lean beef patty, brown gravy and 2 over easy eggs?  Gravy was tasty and had good thickness.  Rice was the yummy sticky rice.  The beef was a bit dry, but hey, it’s a diner.  Other items that looked divine were their other Moco’s with Spam, pulled pork, chili, etc. and their ‘famous’ omelettes that can be filled with just about anything, like crab, Spam, Chinese sausage, shrimp, Portuguese sausage, etc.  Yes, I was a gluttonous fool.  But my belly was happy.

Macadamia Nut Pancakes

 

The 'Original' Loco Moco

Neal’s Ratings:

  • Atmosphere = B-   (local, limited parking, diner)
  • Service =  A+    (quick, friendly, kept my coffee full)
  • Food = A+    (great menu, lots of options, big servings, and tasted oh so good)