Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gyenari, Culver City

Gyenari, Culver City
9540 Washington Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232

Telephone: 310.838.3131

Monday - Thursday:
11:30 am - 11:00 pm
11:30 am - 12:00 am
12:00 pm - 12:00 am
5:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Yes, still sticking very close to work in good ol' Culver City. Gyenari is about a block away from work- I have to cross one street to get there. Regardless of distance, we didn't go out, the food came in. When I'm consistently eating all three meals at work, not a good sign. I eat literally about two meals at home every week (Sunday breakfast and dinner). *sigh*

Back to Gyenari. The actual restaurant is very faux-Zen, minimalist and modern, very different than most Korean barbecue places. They serve (overly) fancy cocktails rather than plunking down green bottles of soju. Rather than abiding by the Korean rules of good (more is more), Gyenari attempts to keep their plates stark and almost spare (any Korean would be shocked- SHOCKED- by the amount of plate that shows around the food).

Besides those little finicky issues, Gyenari's ... okay. The food isn't authentic, but doesn't really need to be. I was pleasantly surprised by their kimchi (김치) and unpleasantly displeased with their potstickers (만두). Their meat dishes are not very Korean and a little too sweet, but good. Their japchae (잡채) is very sweet, but the noodles are good (I hate over-cooked japchae noodles) and the vegetables they put into it are the right ratio.

The food is a combination of okay and good. People at work were raving about it, which goes to show that this sort of "fusion" is popular for a reason. An authentic Korean restaurant, while successful just a few miles away in Koreatown, would fail in Culver City. The vibe of the restaurant (hip, slinky, brushed-steel and polished concrete) contributes as much to Gyenari's popularity as its food.

I'm sure that I'll be eating at Gyenari again. It's a good place for drinks, though not budget-friendly, and is really convenient for me (always a plus).

I don't know if I feel that Gyenari is a representation of how Koreans have sold out, or if it shows how Koreans can adapt. Whichever it is, I'm glad it's enjoying some popularity and I hope that more people become curious about Korean food because of it.

By the way, "gyenari" is a type of flowering tree, called forsythia (in Korean, 개나리). It's beautiful, with a bright sunny yellow that is hard to find:

I have never seen a forsythia outside of Korea, as they don't grow here. Forsythia, along with gingko trees, which glow golden in the autumn, are two of the plants that I love best. When I think of what I miss about Korean, they're high up on the list.

I will return to Gyenari (the restaurant) if, for nothing else, to remember fondly this plant that I love and miss.


william May 27, 2009 at 8:30 PM  

it's weird how they spell 개나리 'gyenari.' usually 개 would be spelled 'gae' but i guess they didn't want the restaurant to be named 'gaenari' which is less hip? really, does the 'y' give you a 'hip' kind of effect? or do all the vowels scare off the americans?

we usually see gye --> 계.

i'm not being a smartass or anything...just curious.

jeanny May 28, 2009 at 12:09 PM  

I honestly think the YE is supposed to be cooler than the AE would be. The place is wrong on many levels, though- if you look on their website, they say it's pronounced "jin-AR-ee," which is just a travesty.

A couple of the owners are Korean-American, but I think they're more like American with Korean ancestry.

Korean to English Romanization is always annoying. Ugh.