"If you're lucky," wrote Jonathan Gold in his Counter Intelligence review "In the Midnight Hour: Late-Night Goat Supper at Bulrocho -- Dispensing Chile-Red Comfort in a Bowl of Koreatown Goat Soup," "you may be offered a taste of the house soju, a tea-colored cordial flavored with steeped fresh ginseng."
Now we here at Squid Ink are offering you a look at the same ginseng soju that our Mr. Gold sipped. Few people outside of Squid Ink circles realize that in addition to the one or two photos that appear with Mr. Gold's reviews in the pages of the LA Weekly, longtime Counter Intelligence photographer Anne Fishbein usually shoots many more images than can fit on the page. What follows are some of our favorite unseen images from the Bulrocho shoot, with comments pulled from Mr. Gold's review. To see a slideshow of all of the Bulrocho images Fishbein has made available, click here. And to read Mr. Gold's full review, click here.
"The most obvious order," Mr. Gold writes, "is probably the goat platter, available in sizes to feed 2, 4 or 8, an arrangement of sliced goatmeat served in broth on a ceramic plate, like a Korean goat pot a feu, that seethes over a Sterno inferno."
"You pick out a piece of goat, keeping or discarding the rubbery but delicious skin that adheres to it, and season it to your liking, smearing it with yellow bean paste perhaps, dipping it in a mixture of soy and hot mustard, heaping on a little of the house condiment of chopped herbs bound with tart chile sauce and the fiery chile paste gochujang, or wrapping it in a pungent leaf of kkaennip, Korean perilla, with a slice or two of jalapeño and a clove of raw garlic."
"How did you know we serve goat?" asked the puzzled waitress, handing us a copy of the elaborately bound photomenu.
"The big picture on the sign outside?'' I said.
"Oh -- that's right. Goat is our specialty.''
"At 8 p.m., you would probably never notice the restaurant Bulrocho, yet another storefront in a huge Korean minimall, flanked by specialists in Korean rice cakes, blood sausage and puppies (the last is a pet store), literally in the shadow of Park's, which at the moment is probably the best Korean barbecue in town. YongSuSan and the Dragon are just across the street; A-Won and Kobawoo are steps away. Even if the place seemed like your kind of restaurant, its lack of an English sign, sparsely populated tables and mild but distinctly gamy aroma might cause you to shrug and look for a branch of BCD Tofu instead, where, unlike Bulrocho, you probably won't be confronted with huge flatscreens streaming tape of the North Korea missile launch every few minutes on YTN, Seoul's version of CNN, 24 hours a day.
"After midnight though, when it is beginning to look like a meal of screaming teenagers and indifferent ddukbokkum at Hodori is inevitable, Bulrocho starts to look pretty good -- a clean, well-lighted room, solicitous waitresses, and a backlit sign outside highlighted by a mammoth portrait of a handsome black goat."
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"If you've come this far, you might as well try Bulrocho's famous dish, an herb-infused goat soup served bubbling in a ceramic pot, a complex, red concoction of soft goat meat and deep, long-simmered broth, handfuls of chiffonaded greens and tiny, crunchy mustard seeds, and half a dozen other things that only a student of Korean traditional medicine could identify without a handbook. Jewish chicken soup makes you feel better after eating it; just sniffing Bulrocho's soup makes you feel healthier.
"And if you're of that sort of mind, you can always contemplate the song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksIsr89iSvA' from Inquisition's classic Magnificent Glorification of Lucifer album. Me, I'd rather just have another bowl of soup.