I’m usually broke so eating out for me means a $3.75 Banh Mi or a $1.00 Cabeza Taco. It’s been ages since I chowed down at Border Grill in Santa Monica. I’ve never even set foot in Chinois on Main or Providence. To paraphrase Marge Simpson, I can’t afford to eat anywhere that has a name. That’s why I was surprised to find a name on the menu of my favorite bargain watering hole. I hate to sound all fan boy but I did get a little bit of a rush looking down at the Gyenari bar menu and seeing “Debbie Lee of The Next Food Network Star.”
Debbie Lee may not be a name the way Tom Colicchio is a name, but fans of The Next Food Network Star will remember her. I was rooting for her during the show. I wanted to see a Southern/Korean cooking fusion show on TV. Well, Debbie didn’t win, but if you want to sample a new take on Korean food head over to Gyenari in Culver City.
I’ve been coming to Gyenari bar ever since I discovered the place next to the AMC theater. I was looking for a new movie and drinks hangout for me and my friends. We had settled on The Bridge but the only place to eat over there was Marie Calendar. Gyenari was definitely a step up quickly became one of my favorite spots. The food wasn’t very Korean but it was good and the $6 sojus and the $2 Hite beers kept me and my mates very happy. However I have to say the new food looks ten times better yet is still $4 at happy hour. I started off with Rice Ramaki and if there’s anything that shows off the Southern/Korean fusion it’s this dish. Ramaki are rice dumplings usually served in a light red sauce. Gyenari serves them wrapped in bacon and with a spicy chili dipping sauce. The dumpling is light and springy. It’s nothing more than boiled rice flour dough. But wrap it in bacon and add a spicy but not too spicy red chili sauce for dipping and you’ve got a great new bar food. I could eat these with their dipping sauce all day.
Gyenari already had pretty good sliders, the new ones look nicer with miniature sesame seed buns and topped with shredded Korean BBQ pork.
The new Mandoo are called Melting Mandoo. I really don’t see what makes them “melting.” They are decent pan seared dumplings and they have that red chili dipping sauce which could make a poker chip taste good.
My friend ordered the ribs and I didn’t a chance to sample any but they looked gorgeous.
He also got the seafood Jeon Jeon which I did grab a bite of. It was, to my taste, a big improvement over what they used to serve. The old Jeon Jeon was a flat crepe which was a little weak in the flavor and texture department. The new version has lighter fluffy cakes, like what we think of as pancakes only in this case topped with seafood instead of maple syrup. It was another bit of Southern meets Korean and I got a real kick out of it.
Of course the sojus and the beers kept flowing [as you can see by my photography.] There used to be couches in the bar area, but they got rid of those. When you serve soju they’re too much of a temptation to stretch out and take a nap. The happy hour goes from around 3 to 7 PM. It’s still one of the best kept secrets in Culver City. Me and my friends go there all the time and always find plenty of seats, except of course for the one time we brought a real crowd and found the place packed to the rafters.
Gyenari BBQ and Lounge
9540 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90232-2631
Prices: $2 Hite Beers, $6 Sojus, $4 bar food during Happy Hour 3PM-7PM