If a bro wanted to hang out on the weekend but we’re not drinking Jonnie Black at Darabar, it’s most likely because there was a request for a Ktown hangout that doesn’t require a hipster badge or beer made in some Angeleno’s shoe closet.
The view of the upstairs “rooms” from the patio
What Ktown is really all about on certain carefree days when the thoughts of toxic pork and GMO corn don’t cross the mind: crap booze, instant ramen posing as food, and 50% off happy hour
Previously, I would’ve taken said bro to Hanshin Pocha, the last home to the Great 50% sale in West Hangook. [Please note: "West Hangook" is the new "Ktown"]. Sadly, it shuttered late 2011. These 50% happy hours last obscenely late into the evening, say around 9:00 P.M. and they are the reasons why all non-
KtownWest Hangook happy hours are unsavory. $5 bottles of Stone IPA? No mam. Every menu item (except for already-discounted combos and KBBQ) is half off from the moment the door swings open (around 5:00 P.M.), until you’re ready to be wheeled out by a dumptruck, which is typically around 9 P.M. While K-Town reality show wants everyone to think no party is fulfilled without “3 trains” (see Ktown Reality Show ep2 below), give me three doggie bowls of makgeoli, a supersized portion of dukbokki, a platter of steamed pork hock and I’m good for the evening.
Star Light pojangmatcha is part of the Star system, which is not part of the Starry system. Beul Dae Poe — Star BBQ — was the KBBQ queen c.2008-09, but they’ve since ceded that tiara to OO-Gook and Road-to-Seoul, and even more recently, to Kang Ho Dang. With the slush fund from the last decade, Star decided to open an expansive karaoke lounge cum drinking hole right on Wilshire Blvd. I prefer karaokeing only when my voice is muted by a motorocycle helmet, so the focus will be on the boozy restaurant portion of Star Light.
In order to skirt United States / California / Los Angeles County smoking bans, all pojangmachas (Korean make-shift tented drinking establishments) happen to also stay true to the spirit of Seoul. Majority of the “building” is outdoors, with one completely open wall. That wall is then “built” using heavy retractable plastic screens. Here at Star, this architectural travesty is the main (indoor) room, where all the cool drunk kids hang out. It’s also extremely smoky, not unlike a college dorm room full of University of Michigan potheads. You may ask for the non-smoking section, and ironically, that translates to sitting in the possibly nipply patio, separated from the main dining hall by a wide-open false wall. Instead of being smoked by bad beef, you will get smoked by Virginia Slims at Star Light, inside or out.
But more brilliantly, Star Light, with comprehensible-with-the-help-of-Google-translate English on its menu, is “ee-cha” and “sam-cha” under one giant tented roof. The restaurant liquor license allows the karaoke rooms upstairs to serve alcohol. Boom. No need to pay for the pure unadulterated evil that is valeting at Chapman Plaza.
The food here is almost on par with DGM, which translates to globs of corn-cheesu, tubs of gochujang soaked rice cakes, plates of simply grilled seafood (squid — nakji, mackerel, croaker, etc.), bowls of mass produced fish cake in fake dashi broth (oden soup) portraying pure MSG, cauldrons of bubbling soups packed with spicy spam, AMERICAN CHEESU, more rice rakes, more fish cakes, a few eggs, wieners, ad nausea, and finally, skillets of quickly assembled steamed smoked jokpal… Wait, that last one kinda sounds good. And it was.
CW: grilled squid, budae jigae (Johnson’s Stew) topped with American cheese, giant plate of sliced pork hock, spicy chicken wings. Click to enlarge
With the constant reminder by the 50%-off banner, over-ordering is easy. However, a four-top only needs three dishes, a two-top ordering two dishes means greasy leftovers. Order a few bottles of Hite beer and soju first before ordering the food. Linger long enough and comped “service” (think: free crappy panchan of peanuts, or fries, or nuts, fruit, etc.) will appear. But don’t wait til the happy hour is over. A producer from Channel A recently asked: “how is the localization of Korean food” coming along in America? Based on Star Light, the Koreans in LA are getting everything right about the American palate: freebies, couponing, cheap food drenched in all variations of MSG, gross spicy stuff drenched in MSG then topped with fat, fried stuff, fried stuff topped with sugar, and huge portions. Star Light would undoubtedly piss off Bloomberg, but it also makes you want to shout: Fuck Yah Korean America!
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