979 dewey ave (@olympic blvd)
los angeles, ca 90006
seoul searching no. 2 - korean chinese
It’s always a challenge trying to go to a restaurant with a large party. but when it’s the family, chinese food is a no-brainer. it’s relatively inexpensive, the pre-set banquet menus make ordering easy, the restaurants are spacious enough to accommodate the group, and as hard as it is to believe, there is always another family that is louder than us.
I didn’t even know china gate, a chinese restaurant in koreatown, had an english name until i looked it up by its address on the web. i’ve only ever heard it called “mah-lee-jahng-suh,” which i'm sure is still the incorrect phonetic translation of the korean name. the sign isn't visible from olympic blvd, and the entrance is off a tiny side street called dewey. i always just look for lee’s t.v. and know i’m there.
china gate doesn’t have amazing food, but it’s been there for-what-seems-like-ever and it has never been bad, as is the story with all chinese restaurants. the food in korean chinese restaurants really isn’t that different from chinese chinese restaurants. the servers are chinese people born in korea, or maybe they’re korean people born in china. heck, it's al the same! either way, they speak both languages. they have authentic-ish chinese dishes like crispy duck, the less authentic dishes like moo-shoo, and of course, the korean chinese dishes, like jja-jahng-myun (noodles with black bean sauce), jjahm-bbong (spicy seafood soup and noodles), and nah-jo-gee (battered and deep fried chicken sauteed with vegetables in spicy sauce).
Every pre-set menu starts with soup. they brought out a large bowl of a light-colored seafood soup with scallops, shrimp, and straw mushrooms. i’m never a fan of these cornstarch-thickened soups in chinese restaurants. it seems weird to me that the ingredients don't float, but rather are eerily suspended in pseudo liquid. after the little soup bowls and those ridiculous spoons that could chip a tooth are cleared away, the steady stream of dishes begins.
We have yahng-jahng-pee, a kind of composed “salad” that gets mixed with a chinese mustard/yellow wasabi dressing at the table. everything in it is cold: chicken, pork, vegetables, cucumbers, julienned smoked tofu and flat clear sheets that at first i thought were jellyfish (hae-pah-ree), but really are noodles made from sweet potato starch. this is another one of which i am not too fond. the standard dishes follow, like chung-pah so-go-gee (beef with green onions, aka mongolian beef), and ggahm-poong-gee (deep fried chicken in sweet and sour sauce). and crab. and whole steamed fish. and and and. there’s was so much, and on top of it all, we also ordered the family’s adopted favorite, the beef with yellow chives. it’s never on any menu, but they make it if you ask. but do it nicely.