Thursday, January 2, 2014

Gut bomb!

Grilled beeliner at Mykonos Restaurant
Gourmet is the word for an exacting and refined food critic, one with high standards and discernment, and disdain for food that is not of the highest caliber and art. Gourmand is the word for someone who likes to eat. My family and I are unabashed gourmands. Recently we were trying to count the different kinds of protein we've eaten in the last two weeks. It turns out to be quite a menagerie.

While in the Tampa Bay area, we dined at our favorite Greek restaurant in Tarpon Springs. Grilled octopus, pan-fried perch, grilled whole beeliner (vermillion snapper) and Greek-style grouper. Then, Our Son cooked a roast leg of lamb for Christmas dinner with beer-boiled gulf shrimp for appetizers.

Oysters on the waterfront
On Boxing Day we sat in a dockside tiki-bar and ate fresh Gulf oysters on the half shell. That night we were treated to a delicious dinner of Cuban roast pork, home-cooked by [The Man I Love]'s oldest friend and his wife.

Returning to Los Angeles, we introduced our son to the pier at Redondo Beach, where we ate steamed California spiny lobster and local crabs, and Pacific Northwest oysters on the half shell. And sea urchin, scooped right out of the beast itself.

Sea urchin. Just scoop it out.
Sunday night, our neighbor invited us to dinner and served scallop sashimi followed by duck confit pizza and tea-smoked duck breast with mushrooms and bok choy. Sorry, no photos.

Smoked marlin taco
Tuesday afternoon, we went to Coni Seafood and had shrimp ceviche, smoked marlin tacos, shrimp in tequila/butter sauce and pescado zarandeado, or charcoal grilled butterflied snook.

So what's next?

Well, yesterday, New Year's Day, we decided to take our son to Kang Hodong Baekjong, the Koreatown barbecue joint we recently discovered.  When we walked through the plaza at Chapman Market, it was empty of cars, but we were met at the door by a man who gave us a card. "We're closed for a kitchen remodel. But our other restaurant is three blocks up 6th Street."

Waiting for a table at Ahgassi Gopchang
The sign has a cartoon of a perky, sassy young missy, and Ahgassi Gopchang, translated from Korean, means, literally, "Young lady intestine." It doesn't sound like a name that would draw a crowd, but just like its sister restaurant, the place is very popular. When we arrived and put our name in, around 5:00 in the afternoon, there were already four tables ahead of us.

The "intestine" part of the name refers to the restaurant's specialty - gopchang, or grilled beef or pork intestines, a very popular Korean dish. You can get the usual Korean barbecue cuts of beef or pork, but you can also get an assortment of tripe and various types of viscera.

Thin-sliced beef brisket ready for the grill
We opted for the beef combo that included thinly sliced brisket or chadol, boneless short ribs, and skirt steak, and our adventurous son added a single order of intestine. The waiter recommended large intestine, which is dae-chang. We also had our choice of three stews - we chose a kimchee stew rich with red chili, tofu, and - I think - tripe.

Beef short ribs
As at Kang Hodong Baekjong, the waitstaff tends the table-top propane grill and cooks each cut of meat. This restaurant chain is famous for the quality of the meat, and it did not disappoint. Each cut was wonderful, tender and delicious. I especially liked the short ribs.

Perilla leaf
The side dishes weren't as plentiful as at the other restaurant, but one interesting item was a large perilla leaf wilted in soy used to wrap the bits of charred brisket. There was also a little pot of frothy steamed egg.

Steamed egg
Ahgassi Gopchang's set-up includes modern high-tech exhaust hoods like flying saucers that our waiter raised and lowered over the grill with a touch of his hand to draw the smoke away.

The exhaust hoods go up and down
We worked our way through the three beef courses and were quite full by the time the dae-chang arrived. I admit to being rather horrified by the prospect - both in general and because I was absolutely stuffed to the gills already. How could I possibly eat another bite, let alone the large intestine of a cow?

Let me just add here, that I tried to ignore, but couldn't quite suppress, a recollection of my own not-so-long-ago intestinal adventure. 

Beef large intestines
But when it arrived on the platter, it wasn't frightening at all - it was pre-cooked and looked a bit like sausages. Which, now that you think of it, makes sense. The waiter turned them onto the dome-like grill surface and tumbled a large handful of garlic cloves along with them.

Dae-chang with garlic
They sizzled and danced, and soon clear fat was rolling away from them down the sides of the grill.  Deftly wielding the ubiquitous scissors of  Korean barbecue joints, the waiter snipped the sausages into short lengths, like cutting hot dogs up for children, and let them sizzle some more. They grew brown and crispy-looking, caramelizing. Hey, I thought, I can eat one of those.

And I did.  Eat one. It was chewy. It was good - ish. It had a sweetness from the marinade, but the overall sensation was fat. Very rich and very fatty.

[The Man I Love] and Our Son ate them, dipped in the soy-garlic sauce served alongside them - they ate a surprising amount, actually, given how much beef we'd already eaten. But I could not put one more piece of cooked protein in my mouth.

I feel as though in only two weeks, I've climbed up the food chain of the Animal Kingdom, from the Echinoidia of the sea urchin through Molluscs and Crustaceans, past the Anatidae to the gut of the mighty Bovinae.

Maybe I'll try vegetarianism for a little while now.


smalltownme said...

Oh wow, so tasty. I would try all of that except maybe the urchin.

Karen (formerly kcinnova) said...

When you first described the last dish, I shuddered... but the final picture looks very appetizing.

I just got back from the local calzone place that has been around for many years, for good reason. I ate half of my veggie calzone and am stuffed, too!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Sounds like a non-stop culinary adventure!

I have a bottle of Perilla infused shochu, a gift from my brother Sweetums' father-in-law, that I carefully ration shots out of. I just can't find the stuff here in the states, and have gone to Japanese liquor stores to look for it. The booze itself is distilled from sweet potatoes, and the shiso (wiki says the Korean Perilla has a different taste from the Japanese variety) imparts a delightful fragrance to it. I think I may have to do a shot when I get home from work. Gunbae, Aunt Snow!