Koreatown’s endless dumplings, big bowls of noodles, and sizzling stone platters of short rib are great and all, but the tight-knit neighborhood really excels in the arena of meat over flame. There are countless Korean barbecue joints across the Wilshire corridor, while down on Olympic it’s all about the cumin-drenched lamb skewers at stalwart Feng Mao. Each individually-crafted skewer gets laid over a charcoal grill with two different zones for cooking and keeping warm, while pillowy wisps of smoke imbue the whole meal with a primal sense of fire. Order the lamb skewers in batches along with a few drinks. For maximum effectiveness, don’t plan on going to any important meetings afterwards because the post-meal meat coma is very, very real.
3901 W. Olympic Blvd. —
Lamb skewers at Feng Mao,... read article
Feng Mao isn't a Korean restaurant. It is a restaurant where northeastern Chinese cooks prepare the Beijing version of Xinxiang barbecue for a Korean-speaking clientele. It is Muslim-style cooking accompanied by little dishes of kimchi and presented in a pork-intensive, alcohol-intensive dining room. It's the rough, rustic food of nomads, cooked on tabletop grills in the middle of a megalopolis, in a room blued with fragrant clouds of charred meat, burnt chile and cumin, and hardwood charcoal. What you want are mutton kebabs, as many as you can afford: lozenges of rich meat interspersed with tiny cubes of lamb fat that turn crisp and lubricate the meat as it cooks. Even the existence of Feng Mao feels improbable, one of those cross-cultural carom shots that only seems to make sense within the context of Los Angeles.
414 S. Western Ave.; (213) 388-9299.
The clientele that eats Feng Mao's mutton kebabs is Korean, though the food is Chinese.; Credit: Anne Fishbein
Mutton kebabs,... read article
Tiny flecks of fire jump from Feng Mao’s tabletop grills. They’re unpredictable at first, but as the embers slowly brighten to white-hot, the flames calm down. Once the entire dining room gets cooking, the Koreatown restaurant fills with a familiar scent: a meaty smoke that works its way into the very fibers of your clothes.
But Feng Mao isn’t a typical Korean restaurant. In fact, it’s merely a hyphenated one, a months-old Korean-Chinese restaurant that’s adapting its recipes to an eight-table space on Olympic Boulevard.
Feng Mao’s crossover cuisine isn’t without explanation. Owner Jin Chun-Hua and her husband hail from China’s Jilin province, a northeastern state that borders North Korea. Within Jilin is the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, a section of the province with a Korean community that once accounted for nearly two-thirds of the prefecture’s population. That you can hear Mandarin and Korean spoken at Feng Mao makes perfect sense. That Jin and her husband chose to camp their Korean-Chinese cooking in Koreatown is even more fitting.
Feng Mao in Koreatown,... read article