A quiet, unassuming corner of Grand Street & Baxter in Chinatown, Li Hua’s doorway doesn’t really beckon one to enter. But should one choose to enter, no regrets shall be had.
LL and I try to make it a habit to have lunch once a week, now that she’s moved offices slightly closer to me and we’ve discovered that we can both easily make it to Chinatown and back to work within the limits of our one hour lunch break. Of course, after a while, you get a bit tired of eating at the same restaurant (we were mostly eating at a Vietnamese place near the train station), so when she suggested Korean food, I was game.
I commented that I hadn’t thought Chinatown had any decent Korean food, but LL told me this was actually not bad. When we received our menus, I noted that the prices for lunch were actually really cheap, since normally I find Korean food to be pretty pricey. We both opted for the LA Galbi Lunch Box – you’ll note that this is, at $9.95, the most expensive lunch box they offer, the others all $8 – since I wasn’t in the mood for spicy stuff and I really like short ribs. Honestly, I felt the price was really cheap, since kalbi/galbi (marinated short ribs, Korean BBQ style) is usually fairly pricey, plus this came with rice, salad, and two of the day’s special appetizers (we didn’t get a choice here).
I was pleased to see there was no skimping of food here- the top three little dishes are banchan, the little freebie dishes – and who doesn’t love freebies?! – that come with every meal at a Korean restaurant (sometimes you can tell a lot about a place by the quality of their banchan). Kimchi, some sort of marinated tofu strips, and pickled cucumber things- these were pretty good, but standard. Something to munch on while you waited, because we did have to wait for quite a while for some strange reason, even though the place wasn’t completely full. (I think this is due to its location and unobvious front.)
Once we received our meals, however, I am pleased to note that the food was yummy. The vegetable pancake-like thing in the top center, dipped in the slightly tangy, slightly spicy sauce in the reservoir next to the rice was delicious; the japchae (glass noodles with assorted veggies) in the top right container was not too oily, just right, and the salad was fairly standard in Japanese bento. The kalbi itself was cooked perfectly; not too salty nor too bland, plenty of meat, just right. I managed to eat most of the box, skipping the onions underneath the kalbi and leaving about half my rice, though LL – who has a smaller appetite than I do (and proportionally… okay, who’m I kidding, she’s a lot thinner than I am!) left a lot more than I on the plate. Either way, well worth the $9.95 price tag, we left stuffed and happy.
As we were leaving, LL remarked that they also have a few good cocktails and we should definitely return.
I know I will be.
Yvo says: Reasonably priced, a nice hidden find in Chinatown; I thought decent Korean food could only be had in Koreatown or Flushing. I’m happy to admit I was wrong. I realize aside from Korean BBQ, I have little to no experience with much of the Korean cuisine, so this is an extremely biased view – I need to expand and eat some more of their other stuff, even though I really don’t like tofu and therefore do not like soontofu. Ah well. Either way, this is a great lunch spot.
well recommended, good value and good food