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OMG…Al Bap!

November 19, 2006

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Holy cow, I had SUCH a good dinner last night. My LA fooding buddy, Cindy and I went out with another friend to O-Dae San in Koreatown. I’ve had the name of this restaurant written down after reading Jonathan Gold’s article on “Koreatown’s Top 40.” He covered a wide range of restaurants, but the description of one dish caught my eye, “we can never tear ourselves away from the ever-fascinating al bap, a big bowl of sushi rice frosted — frosted! — with a half-dozen different kinds of fish eggs, laid out in contrasting streaks radiating from the center of the bowl like rays from the sun.”

And here it is. Quite possibly one of the most beautiful dishes I’ve eaten. Priced at $16, it’s not exactly a steal, but it’s a good deal for the quality and quantity of food. I didn’t know where to start the dish for fear of ruining the carefully laid out streaks of eggs. However, once I got my chopsticks going, I tasted each variety individually and then mixed it with the furikake spotted rice for a most colorful and sumptuous experience. Every bite popped and snapped, each eggs flavoring grains of rice with it’s own unique flavor. Sorry, I don’t know the names of any of them, but I can assure you the were all delicious. :) The back half of the bowl however was a bit of letdown: the unagi was a fine cut, though the overall appeal of the bowl diminished with strands of imitation crab and the slice tired, old perhaps, sweet egg omelet. But man, isn’t it a sight to see? I think I could live forever happy with a bowls of rice and an endless variety of fish eggs for dinner every night…although I may need a bowl of bread pudding and a croissant every now and then…

Cindy had the Chirashi which came full with no less than eight types of fish over a warm bed of rice. They just really know how to plate things here. I found that this dish looked better than it tasted, some pieces of sashimi were a bit “tough” and lackluster in flavor. But it was just so beautifully presented, I had to applaud it anyways!

Will had an order of spicy tuna roll, which he deemed “better than anything in Claremont.” That’s not saying much in the realm of sushi, however it did look darn good.

The standard Korean panchan, beansprouts, lotus root, kimchee and broccoli. If anyone can figure out what the top middle dish is, I’d be very grateful – crunchy like bamboo shoots and marinated in a spicy-sweet broth…any ideas? All were well prepared, my favorite being the slightly sweet cuts of lotus. Most Korean restaurants offer a greater variety – maybe it was because we were in a Japanese-Korean restaurant that the panchan was limited and very basic.

Along with the panchan, we were each presented a bowl of pumpkin porridge. Hooray! I’ve always seen this in Korean supermarkets, but never had a chance to try it. Now I gladly report back that it subtly sweet creation laced with tiny bits of pumpkin and carrots with a slightly nutty essence. Think refined, Korean-ized jook. Hehe, that probably didn’t help much!

Halfway through the meal, we were brought Will’s other order of tuna rolls and new dish of panchan: marinated squid with root veggies…gah, I wish I knew the name to all these dishes! It’s a shame to not know what you’re eating! O-Dea San is worth going out of your way to pay a visit, but only for the Al Bop. I found the other dishes to be just standard quality food, nicely presented. But the Al Bop? Totally worth the drive in LA traffic!

Ohhhh, just realized I did this meal completely backwards! Hehe, well, there’s nothing wrong with ending with panchan :)

O-Dae San
2889 W. Olympic Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90006
(213) 383-9800



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