Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gyenari - Korean or Korean Fusion? (Culver City)



Gyenari, a new restaurant in Culver City's restaurant row opened by William Shin which presents a menu influenced by William's long lost cousin Debbie Lee of The Next Food Network Star fame, is one of the few Korean themed restaurant on the Westside of Los Angeles. When I received an invitation from the PR to visit Gyenari, I was more than happy to accept the invite.


Assorted Skewers

Upon arrival, I was presented with a tray of skewers consisting of:

1) Grilled Eggplant with a spicy miso paste - Good texture, and the miso added a nice kick.
2) Spicy Pork - A tad spicy, which was nice. Quite flavorful
3) Beef with onions - Good flavor, but didn't really stand out.

soju caipirihna

Soju Caipirihna

The soju caipirihna, presented to the entire party was actually quite nice. Sweet, and not too strong, but a nice cocktail to start off the meal.

Pomegranate Pearl

Pomegranate Pearl

In addition to the welcoming cocktail, I ordered a separate drink of pomegranate pearl. Made with pearl plum vodka, pomegrante rice wine (sake? soju?), and cranberry juice. It has a bit more bite than the soju caipirihna, but still, quite nice. Now, onto the food....

duk buk kee

dduk buk kee (Spicy Rice Cakes)

During the drive up to Culver City, Cathy of Gastronomyblog told me duk buk kee was one of her favorite Korean dishes, in her "interesting" way of pronouncing it that cracked me up during the drive. When I saw it on the menu, I was intrigued with this dish, as this is also one of my favorite Korean dishes (Interesting enough, one of the few I could actually make). Sadly, it was a bit too sweet for me, as the gochujang seemed to have been mixed with another condiment. The dduk was cooked well, but I think I could have made a better version of this dish at home. Maybe I'll cook this one day for Cathy to try....... (Don't quote me on this one Cathy!)

Assorted Jeon

Assorted Jeon

Fried seafood and vegetable, how can anyone not like this right? The dish as a whole was cooked well and had a nice diping sauce to accompany the dish, but none of the 3 choices stood out.

Pumpkin Porridge

Pumpkin Porridge

This was a nice version of the Korean pumpkin porridge. Along with toasted pinenuts and soju infused dates, I enjoyed this bowl, but it could have easily served without the dates. Nevertheless, an enjoyable dish.

Pear and Shiso Salad

Pear and Shiso Salad

I'm not sure why this dish had "shiso" in its name as I barely tasted the supposed main ingredient. In fact, it should have been called Pear and Rib eye salad, as that was the overpowering ingredient. I wasn't too fond of this dish as it had too much meat (did I just say that?) to be really called a "salad."



Japchae, or stir fried glass noodles with meat and vegetables is one dish I'm all too familiar with as it's one of the favorite thing my mom would make for me at home. After having other versions along with my mom's, the japchae at Gyenari is just too sweet for me. Although enjoyable, I'm not sure if I would order this again.

banchanG1 (kalbi, pork belly, chicken, bulgogi)G1G1 on grill

banchan and G1 Meat Set

One of the highlights from the dinner at Gyenari was the banchan dishes offered. All the choices were quite traditional and very "Korean." I enjoyed all the side dishes.
In terms of the G1 meat set, the meat were all very fresh and marinated well. However, the marinade was again, way too sweet, which I don't think I enjoyed. I liked the pork belly and the various dipping sauce offered to us. The chicken dipped into the chipotle mayo was also quite a nice combination.

Kimchi Jigae

Kimchi Jigae

The kimchi jigae was nice, but it really did not need the tomatoes in the soup. This would have been much better without the tomatoes. I do miss the spice from the usual kimchi jigae found in Koreatown.

Spicy Chocolate Creme Brulee with Green Tea Beignets

Spicy Chocolate Creme Brulee with Green Tea Beignets

Dessert is probably my favorite part of any meal and the spicy chocolate creme brulee was quite nice, but slight too "chocolatey?" In addition, the beignet was slightly dry, but I solved that problem by dipping it into the creme brulee. All in all, a very pleasant ending to the meal.

Overall, I'd have to say Gyenari was an interesting experience. The food was actually more authentic than I expected, but we didn't not receive any of the "Seoulful" dishes that Debbie Lee was known for. It'll be something I'd be interested in trying those dishes next time, perhaps at Happy Hour that runs 7 days a week that lasts until 8pm. Although the dishes were sweeter and lack in the kick that I'm used to in Korean cuisine, Gyenari is definitely a good place for someone to try Korean BBQ or food for the first time. The food and flavors are quite tame compared to the same food found in Koreatown, but for the price, and quality, it's definitely not a bad deal. The service was friendly, the atmosphere was lively, and the bar made some bomb drinks. It's definitely one of the better restaurants to visit on the Westside for Happy Hour.

9540 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

Gyenari in Los Angeles


weezermonkey said...

Looks like the drinks were better than the food!

Gastronomer said...


If you make me some dukboki, I will name my first born child after you. Little KFP is going to be a beautiful child ;-)

Btw - I've had some crazy-sweet dukboki in K-Town. I thought Gyenari's was quite balanced. Can't wait to taste your version!

Anna A. said...

hmmmmmmm funny I've seen these same exact items before... looks like a fun nosh sesh. Sign me up for the jeon.

Diana said...

I liked the sweetiness of some of the dishes (the japchae was a fave), but do agree that the chicken and a few of the meats needed a little something something to balance out the sweet marinades.

joanh said...

i have passed by this place many a times (tender greens across the street was a new favorite of mine when i was in LA) and wondered how it was.. i guess it's worth a try since there really isn't any decent korean place on the westside.. i don't know if you got a chance to look at the menu, are the prices on the high side, or pretty affordable?

Kung Food Panda said...

Monkey: I liked the drinks more than the food, but the food wasn't bad at all, just a bit sweet.

Cathy: Love duk buk kee in general, but you should try it at DGM. It's extremely spicy, and not sweet, just the way I like it...Little KFP huh? Interesting proposal =P

Anna: Ya, I think most of us are reviewing it :)

Diana: Even though the food was slightly sweet, I'm actually interested in trying the "Seoulful" menu...

Joanh: The prices wasn't that bad, I think the meat combo (comes with rice and japchae) was $70. Although if you're in the area, you may want to hit up the KBBQ in KTown.

Ravenous Couple said...

good to see you again! post processing?? don't think you need much of that from this post!

Lori Lynn said...

I really like the eggplant miso skewers, have to try making that.

Cool wavy cocktail glass too.

My brother has a warehouse in Culver City, might have to stop by here.