I have a recent go to spot for such occasions, and it goes by possibly the world's most difficult-to-remember-name-to-non-Koreans of Hangari Bajirak Kalgooksoo. Their specialty is fresh-made, hand-cut noodles (I believe the two final words in the restaurant name translate to shellfish hand cut noodles). And it's conveniently located minutes from some of my favorite spas in Ktown, and in the same strip mall as one of my favorite bakeries in the area, Paris Baguette.
The servers are frazzled most of the time as the restaurant is constantly busy - but you get the feeling that they have a hard and sometimes spiny shell with a soft center.
As for the food: it looks and tastes like something a Korean grandmother would make for her family - simple, fresh, and infused with TLC. And at $8.95 for a giant bowl of noodles plus banchan (free, refillable side dishes), also an incredible deal.
Banchan, as with other Korean restaurants, are first to arrive. They keep these simple too, just a few dishes including puffed rice, kimchi, and a miso sauce that packs an umami punch.
I loved everything about this steaming bowl of comfort. To borrow the Chinese way of praising soup quality: the broth here has 'clarity' and 'purity', which makes it very soothing and helps impart a feeling that it's good for your body and soul. The noodles were structured yet impossibly tender, and also taste like they were just pulled together and cut minutes before they reached your table.
The surprising element to me was the addition of kabocha squash for a hint of sweetness, and a nice clean starchy crunch. There were also chunks of potato to soak up the broth and become nice soft/crumbly flavor bombs, and bit of scallions and shredded seaweed for additional taste.
When you are sick, the mild flavors of the soup noodles will be just perfect - but when you are not, there are the handy side dishes of miso sauce and kimchi, which allows you to adjust for flavor according to your own personal preference (that miso sauce is so good I could eat spoonfuls of it...).
Can't wait to go back (too bad it's not open right now...I'm making myself hungry writing about this)!
On a 7 point scale:Flavor - 5 bites
Presentation - 4 bites
Originality - 4 bites
Ambience - 2 stars
Service - 3 stars
Overall experience - 4 bites
Price - $ (1 bite mark)
Probability of return visit - 100%
Hangari Bajirak Kalgooksoo
3470 W 6th St., Los Angeles, CA 90020
Parking: $2 valet in attached open air lot at night
(Restaurant is a little hard to find - it's in the same strip mall as Paris Baguette. Go to the opposite end of the mall from 7-Eleven and it's next to a bar/lounge - the one with green tables)