Kid Hit Menu Items: Luckily for us during dinner at Park’s BBQ the other night, the happy eating started when the banchan arrived. One kid would have been satisfied with an entire meal consisting of just the sesame-inflected broccoli and the glass noodles. Those side dishes, along with an awesome mildly spicy combo of pickled carrots, cucumber, onion and chewy black mushrooms, kept us all busy while the gal-bi beef short ribs cooked ($33) and mushrooms (mix of sliced king trumpet, button and clusters of enoki, $15) absorbed the escaping meaty juices, followed by beef candy, AKA bulgogi ($25). The rice wrappers vanished before having the chance to be wrapped around sizzling flesh. Blazing red items that obviously pronounce their level of spice were moved out of reach. Because the meal went off without any mishaps, they each attempted to make a dent in the chocolate-covered ice cream bombs from the illustrated flip tent dessert menu that was staring at them the entire time.
Adult Perks: Park’s has a rep for its well-described wine list, which consists of Big Fancy California Reds (e.g. Stag’s Leap, Opus One), bottles in the less pricey range and a few choices by the glass. I also spotted Lioco and Heredia on the shelves, and maybe some other time a Park’s meal will call for sake and Korean specialties. But when it comes to Korean BBQ, I generally like to keep it simple and share a tall bottle of crisp Hite poured into those cute beer glasses. Played it safe when ordering dinner entrees, but Park’s has all parts of the cow, plus a list of Wagyu cuts and specialties such as abalone, cod, pan-fried mackerel and pancake with rock shrimp. And then comes the menu page with the stews, stone pot rice dishes, cold mul-naengmyeon noodles and other foods that require a much bigger crowd to taste a wider range.
Pros: The hum of grills and those shiny stainless vent hoods operating non-stop creates a good baseline of background noise. Tabletop cooking provides activity, entertainment and depending on how much you want to get into it, lessons in how proteins cook. Regardless, it’s an intense sensory experience. The boys had fun gently poking at the meat with chopsticks. (One even rocked his chef’s jacket and hat for the occasion.) Portions are huge, especially when you factor in the banchan, rice etc. ONE meat platter and the mushrooms would have been enough, but to this big leftovers fan, all that sweet and tangy marinated beef and especially the fat is more flavorful and succulent the next day. Every parent must, however, consider the obvious drawbacks and potential dangers…
Cons: A hot coal-stoked grill right in the middle of the table is what it is. The wait staff mostly attended to the cooking for us (this level of attention/protocol seems to vary depending on the restaurant but it’s more likely that I’m missing out on cultural nuances and signs) and the tray with utensils and meat was placed kind of far from our table. We also heard “is it done yet?” a few times. Vent hoods are effective, but Korean BBQ is a rinse-and-repeat kind of situation, and don’t wear anything you can’t stand to wash or easily dry clean. The dinner crowd lines up to the door and beyond, which based on a tweet the following day, might have included Ruth Reichl.
Changing Station: No, but there’s a shelf thing in the ladies’ room that can work in a pinch.
High Chairs: Yes
Parking and Access: Classic K-Town strip mall parking lot with valet attendants.
Other Tidbits: We waited years to attempt a Korean BBQ family meal. I’m glad we were patient, because by the time we went the kids were stoked and ready. They’d been to other Korean restaurants with tabletop grills that we intentionally avoided using — including one place in my parents’ neighborhood that was the site of such a disastrous family dinner that I’m fairly certain we’ll be turned away at the door if we dare try to return. This time we used the fire-at-table forbidden fruit and improved impulse control to our advantage. Success! It’s a psychological hurdle I’m glad we’ve tackled, so in due time I’ll start thinking about what size posse we’ll need to take on pork belly, abalone, tofu and other wonders that come from the kitchen at Park’s. Because we’ll still need to order all that dazzling beef again, too.
955 S. Vermont Ave. (at Olympic) #D, Koreatown
Hours: 11 a.m. – 10 p.m., daily