Ever since Hanjip announced it was opening in Culver City, there's been a lot of talk about it being a game-changer. Besides being the latest offering from the growing juggernaut of Bombet Hospitality Group (Terrine, Faith & Flower, Viviane), Hanjip was created in partnership with Chef Chris Oh (Seoul Sausage, Escala, Nomad Kitchen) — and it focuses on high-quality Korean barbecue.
But what differentiates Hanjip, which opened last week, from other spots in what is arguably the best city for Korean barbecue outside Seoul?
While there's been a lot of attention given to the location itself, the fact that it's not in Koreatown is really not its most intriguing selling point. Famed Korean barbecue spots such as Genwa have been creeping out of Koreatown as far west as Beverly Hills, plus there are dozens of great places to grill raw meat throughout Southeast Los Angeles, from Artesia to Hawaiian Gardens and beyond. A Culver City spot just seems to be in tune with the natural sprawl of a popular L.A. dining trend.
What does make Hanjip distinct among Korean barbecue restaurants in L.A., however, is the overall elevation of its dishes, the quality of products it serves and the high-end, if not European, approach to the cuisine.
Upon walking into Hanjip, the first feeling you get is that you definitely haven't been to a Korean barbecue spot like this before. With stylized black-and-white hood fans and murals by artist Tommii Lim interwoven with dark wood paneling, the space feels both sophisticated and urban. Couple that with gold-plated grills and you know you're in for a different kind of barbecue experience.
Like the space itself, the menu is sophisticated, starting with the colorful selection of banchan dishes including almond jelly, fish cakes, pickled ramps and white water kimchi. For meat, Oh goes with prime cuts of beef — from marinated short rib to skirt steak to thinly sliced brisket — and provides whole roasted garlic and fragrant truffle-infused salt for your post-grill seasoning. For the pork-inclined, there's a selection of Duroc pork belly, jowl and shoulder. There's also beef tongue and intestines for the traditionalists. Beyond red meat, Hanjip offers tender baby octopus, a hamachi collar and extra large prawns.
But it's Hanjip's most opulent dishes that set it apart from other high-end Korean barbecue spots around the city. From the prime rib-eye with truffle butter, Carabineros prawns brought in from Spain and a signature 48-ounce tomahawk steak (prepared sous-vide with butter and foie gras, then finished with a quick sear at your table), there's never been a Korean barbecue place in L.A. that reaches this level of swank.
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The fine-dining mentality continues off the grill as well, with a custardy steamed egg topped with ikura and uni, and an extravagant bone marrow corn cheese with bonito flakes that finishes with a shot of soju poured down the empty bone-turned-luge and into your mouth.
Overall, Hanjip is entering the realm of high-end Korean barbecue in a big way, creating a larger divide between the no-frills, all-you-can-eat spots and the top-shelf restaurants. Ultimately, it could change the image of the cuisine as a whole.
Hanjip doesn't take reservations and is open daily from 11:30 a.m. until midnight.
3829 Main St., Culver City. (323) 720-8804; hanjip.com.