Monday, April 27, 2009

Isshi Hwaro (이씨 화로), Koreatown

Isshi Hwaro (이씨 화로)
3465 W. 6th Street, Suite 130
Los Angeles, CA 90020

Telephone: 213.365.8111

Saturday was the Grilled Cheese Invitational in downtown L.A. Unfortunately, as much as I love cheese (and I do love cheese), I had to work and wasn't able to go. I was not happy about that. Is there anything better than cheese sandwiched between bread that's then fried in butter??

A few of my friends were talking about going to the Grilled Cheese-athon. Taking pity on poor, hard-working me (HA!), they asked if I wanted to get dinner in Koreatown after the Cheese-apalooza.

Of course I said yes. I hadn't been in Koreatown in a while, and Korean barbecue is always good. I think on some level, they wanted me to go to dinner because none of them are Korean. Koreans in Koreatown tend to come up to a group of people and automatically assume that someone speaks Korean. They don't really think to start in English, which makes it awkward for non-Koreans that don't know how to deal with that.

I was willing to be the token Korean to have an excuse to leave work a little early and have some yummy food. Since I was the only Korean one who was involved in planning this little dinner, I got to pick the restaurant. I picked Isshi Hwaro (also spelled Yi Sshi Hwaro), in Chapman Plaza. (Photos are yoinked from

I've been to Isshi Hwaro plenty of times, most notably (and drunkenly) for my birthday two years ago. There are non-barbecue things to eat, but if there's a vegetarian in the party, there is just no way they'll avoid the smell or sight of dead cows and pigs. Squeamish vegetarians, vegans, pescetarians should all stay far, far away.

The most popular thing, by far, is the all-you-can-eat menu. I don't look at the menu anymore, so I'm not exactly sure, but I think it's about ... $18? There are two different sets, depending on the kind of meat you order. The price may seem right until you realize that they're gouging you on the price of the beverages, alcoholic or not.

We ate tons of meat, we drank a fair bit of liquor, had a good time and intense meat facials. I tried a new brand of soju (Fresh? I think?) and had my favorite brands of Korean "wine"- 복분자 (a black raspberry wine) and 매취순 (a plum wine).

Isshi Hwaro is always consistent and good, and I appreciate that. They don't overcrowd the place (ugh, trying to have a meal while elbows are jabbing into you from all angles? horrible!) and they take reservations, which is a big plus.

I've heard that they can be rude to non-Koreans, so having at least one person that speaks Korean is necessary. On Saturday, there were six of us, two of us were Korean and we were all Asian. So at least we had that going for us. (By the way, I think that was the first time I've ever been with only Asian people!)

Some specific complaints:

- Their kimchi jeon (김치전), or kimchi pancake, was not good. Not spicy at all, didn't taste like kimchi, and just sort of seemed like a floury disc. Meh.

- There was a 나물 dish that seemed to be comprised of parsley. Gross. (나물 (namul) is a word used to describe a variety of vegetable dishes. It's late and I'm tired and cranky, so the explanation will have to wait for another day.) Parsley is not often found in Korean food, so I didn't know what to make of that odd development. Fusion? Mistake?

- Their kimchi was not good.

Those are small obnoxious things I point out, because the overall experience was delicious, just as I expected. I just wish they would get the little things right; it would help to make the place even better!


william April 28, 2009 at 1:37 AM  

korean barbecue is the best! i've always thought korean cuisine will be the next big thing in america. first the chinese food. then the sushi. next the korea bbq.

jeanny April 28, 2009 at 10:06 AM  

I thought Korean food would be next, too, but it hasn't quite taken off yet like Chinese or sushi.

I just had it on Saturday and I'm already thinking of when I can go back!