Annyeong hasayeo! I didn’t become a fan of Korean cuisine until very recently. I think I was perhaps intimidated by the menu items which were in romanized Korean that were unfamiliar. I know that the staple food item in Korea is Kimchee, however, I have not yet had the courage to bring myself to try it and as of this writing, still shy away from it. I don’t know why I’m adversed to it and God knows I’ve eaten my fair share of strange and interesting foods.
That being said, Genwa is on the top of my list and is currently my favorite Korean restaurant. This recent find was thanks to my husband and recommended by his co-worker Ji Won. Located on the corner of Wilshire and Mansfield just west of Highland Avenue (and across from Burger King which is my husband’s marker), this beautiful restaurant is a great place to gather family style and share “Banchan” (Korean side dishes) and many of the items on the menu due to its generous portion sizes, enough to share with 2-3 people per dish.
I’ve been to Genwa twice in a one week period. The first time was with my husband and a family friend for dinner on a Friday night and then again just a few days ago for a “Girls Night Out” to celebrate my birthday and my friend Lisa’s birthday (I spotted a couple of celebrities–not there together but dining there separately with family and business associates). My friends are now fans of Genwa too. LOL!
The restaurant itself is very stylish and modern, dark woods, bamboo, decorative touches here and there, beaded pendent and mod-style lamps. Each place setting includes your own metal/aluminum chopsticks and a spoon. The Koreans use a spoon to eat their rice, not their chopsticks (I used my chopsticks anyways to eat my rice dish). You have the option of either cooking the BBQ items yourself (there is a grill in the center of every table) or having the restaurant cook it for you so that it’s delivered to your table ready to eat. The staff is very friendly and will take the time to explain its menu if there is something you have a question on (i.e., what is it? what does it taste like? what is the texture? how hot is it? etc. etc.). They do serve alcohol and have sake and soju available if you want to add to your asian dining experience. I’m going to co-mingle both of my recent visits to Genwa in this one post.
To get our Korean adventure started, we ordered a bottle of Sayuri, a Nigori sake, served cold. It is creamy and naturally sweet and is enough for about 6 shots. I loved the bottle it came in, a beautiful light pink glass bottle with a beautiful rice paper label (I saved the bottle to use as a flower vase!)
We also ordered hot tea. I loved the pots they served their tea in.
I was amazed at the number of banchan or Korean side dishes that were brought out to the table. I was a bit adventurous and did try a number of items and they were very good but sadly, I steered clear of the kimchee (although friend Lisa happily enjoyed it). They also brought out a small stone pot of steamed eggs to share–custard-like and light since it’s steamed in water. I like to add two spoonfuls of this egg mixture to my bowl of Bibim Bap for added flavor and texture. A bowl of green salad was also included and a small bowl of rice wrappers and radish wrappers (a beautiful honeydew melon green color), sliced thin, cool and refreshing and can be filled with any of the banchan items or bbq meats and salad to create a Korean “taco” if you will. You are only limited by your imagination!
Everything on the menu sounded so good. Since their portions are generous we decided to pick 2-3 items that we can all share family style. We opted for the Sizzling Bibim Bap, which is rice with beef and vegetables and egg mixed with chili pepper paste and served in a sizzling stone pot (in short, fried rice–see below photo). I love bibimbap and had it for the first time when I was in Tokyo (of all places). It’s a great dish and all the ingredients are mixed at your table and served in individual bowls (if you choose to share), otherwise, you can eat it right out of the stone pot! They even ask how hot you want it and for me, I opted for medium heat so they adjusted the amount of chili pepper paste to suit my taste (thanks, Francis for remembering how I like it!). They also serve Bibim Bap with Vegetables, Chicken, Kimchee, Shrimp, and Nakji (calamari).
We also chose the Neng Myun, a buckwheat noodle dish served in a cold beef broth topped with beef slices, pear and vegetables. This was high
ly recommended by our server Francis and is one of his favorites. It was very good and the pear just added the right amount of sweetness to the soup, perfect for a warm summer-like evening. Thank goodness we decided to share–they came out with three big soup bowls and I wasn’t able to finish my share of it! I can only imagine what a full serving was like! My one-third share was very filling. In the photo below, Francis cuts the buckwheat noodles so they can be easily managed with chopsticks (it was pretty funny though trying to pick up the noodles; they kept slipping off the chopsticks!).
Our main entree was the Prime Galbi (you may know it as Kalbi Ribs). Prime Galbi is prime short ribs marinated in their special house sauce. You can cook it at your table or have the kitchen prepare it for you (we opted for the latter). The meat was so tender and it sat on a bed of carmelized onions. It was cooked to perfection!
We also tried their Shrimp & Scallop entree–seasoned black tiger shrimp and scallops also atop carmelized onions. The shrimp was butterflied and generous in size and the scallops delicately prepared and succulent!
Since my second outing at Genwa was to celebrate my birthday and my friend Lisa’s birthday, we shared an ice cream dessert–chocolate and raspberry ice cream dusted with cocoa powder. It was beautiful and yummy and they sang “Happy Birthday” to us–in English and not in Korean (we asked them to sing to us in Korean but they didn’t know how to)!
I highly recommend Genwa and for my friends out there–if you’d like to try this place out, I’ll be happy to join you! I think the next time out, I’m going to try the Sam Gae Tang, a whole cornish hen filled with sweet rice and herbs and simmered in broth and the Yuksu Bulgogi, beef and vegetables marinated in their house sauce, served with glass noodle and seasoned broth. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it?
Above: With new friends (left to right) Newton, Sara and Francis. Below: Jeannie, Sara and Francis.
Kampai! Below with friends Lisa and Conjie.
Tabletop Korean BBQ
5115 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Phone: (323) 549-0760
Parking is on Mansfield; go into the Retail Parking entrance. You may be able to find street parking on Mansfield and Wilshire as well. Kamsahamnida!