While I definitely have my much beloved 'everyday' type restaurants on regular rotation, few have tried to elevate the cuisine to more of a luxury dining experience.
Chef Chris Oh, who brought playful inventive Korean to Westsiders in the form of Seoul Sausage (and now to Little Tokyo with Seoul Sausage Company), and restauranteur extraordinaire Stephane Bombet, who is responsible for one of my absolute favorite restaurants in the city (Faith and Flower) as well as many successful launches including Picca, Paiche and the newly opened Viviane are even taking it a step further - creating new sure-to-be-staple dishes while paying homage to the classics.
Even the banchan (complimentary side dishes) that are first to arrive at the table were impressive: high quality, fresh ingredients for familiar dishes like kimchi, potato salad, fish cakes, and inventive ones like marinated octopus tentacles in thin tasty slivers, and acorn jelly which is typically topped with just a spicy sauce, with crisp nori as well.
Definitely try the hamachi (yellowtail fish) collar as well - an item more familiar on Japanese menus than Korean ones - with its fatty juicy tender meat, and wake-up-the-next-day-with-a-need-for-another-fix delicious marinade, made addictively smokey over the grill.
As another fun element that makes every guest feel VIP - Hanjip will break out gold grillz for you to cook the meats on.
Part of the reason I love Korean barbecue so much is for the very interactive, social aspect of the dining experience. While the chef of course does all the prep for you, you get the chance to actually finish the cooking yourself, with your dining companions, as a shared activity. The fun of it is in working together to complete your meal, alternating roles of cook / server/ eater all while at the dining table.
The tomahawk takes that to the next level and will definitely make for a very memorable night out (for up to 4 people to feed on, I would say!) - and one that will have people reminiscing for weeks after. (Read again: FOIE GRAS BUTTER!!!)
As with his other restaurants, Stephane's team really pays attention to every detail here: even the humble Kimchi Fried Rice ($10), ubiquitous to most korean restaurants, gets an upgrade in taste sauteed in brown butter with lovely runny egg + seaweed toppings, and in presentation in an elevated version of the lunch tin (shikdorak).
A bonus dish that was not only a fun photo opp, but an example of Chef Oh's creativity, is the Bone Marrow Corn Cheese ($15) with shaved parmesan and bonito flakes. The luxe 'meat butter' is scraped down and mixed up into the sweet kernels of corn punctuated by counterbalancing textures and intensity of savory with bonito flakes, and creamier with parmesan.
(If for some bizarre and unfathomable reason you do not like sea urchin, this dish is offered sans uni as well, for a very good deal of $5.)
Besides the luxe food offerings, another point of difference with Hanjip from most other KBBQs is that you can get great wines to pair with your meal. I don't know anything about wines but expert @pleasethepalate was happy with the list!
All in all, Stephane can count this as another hit in his portfolio of super successful dining destinations. It's become an instant favorite for me at least, and I will be back again as soon as I possible can.
Til then, I will remain in severe #foodenvy mode with all the Sony employees who have Hanjip right in their backyard.
3829 Main Street, Culver City, CA 90232
Parking: Structure on Cardiff next to Bank of America. First 2 hours free.
Look for reservations (and rewards points!) at OpenTable.
*Disclaimer: this meal was hosted.