Though the outside of the restaurant is non-descript, from the moment you step into the place, you feel transported into another time and space. The decor is an amalgamation of traditional Korean and traditional Japanese mixed with a 70s feel- with an eclectic mix of faux leather diner style booths and waitress uniforms, antiques from both cultures on display, and a tatami room complete with shoji doors for private dining towards the back.
After kicking off our meal with complementary bowls of delicious broth, we started in on our order of Pa Jun - seafood pancake made with egg, dough, green onions, calamari and jalapenos adding a nice kick. Delish, though it contained just a little too much dough.
Of course, the meats came with an array of side dishes. Side dishes are a critical part of any Korean bbq meal - there to add flavor and texture variety to complement the carnage. At Dong Il Jang, the selection of 'banchan' (side dishes) included: kimchi, potato salad, glass noodle salad, marinated broccoli, radish/carrot salad, and lettuce leaves with kimchi vinaigrette. We were not overly impressed by DIJ's banchan offerings - other places would offer more variety including rice wrapper sheets 'dduk bo ssam' (for rolling up pieces of meat), 'mook' (a semi-transparent jello-like cubes that are subtle in taste on their own, but topped by a spicy-salty mix of kimchee, soy sauce and sesame), and dried anchovies. My fav out of those on offer was the lettuce with kimchi vinaigrette - for the combo of fresh / crunchy with slightly spicy / tart. But the meat - the meat was amazing, simple, clean and perfectly sliced for even grilling.
For a party of 4, our total came out to about $35 each with tax and tip included, which is fantastic given the quality and quantity of food served. There are of course places that are much cheaper, as well as AYCE Korean BBQ places like Manna - but Dong Il Jang really stands apart from the crowd in terms of quality of its food and dining experience. You won't find the latest Korean pop / dance music being pumped through here - Dong Il Jang is all about serving quality food in a comfortable setting.
All in all, I would recommend Dong Il Jang as a foodie friendly place, or for anyone looking to have an authentic, nostalgic and relatively upscale night of korean bbq in K-town.
On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 5.5 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $$$ (3 bite marks)
Probability of return visit - 100%
Dong Il Jang
3455 West 8th Street Los Angeles, CA 90005