Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Dan Sung Sa

Enthused by the smoky brilliance of Soot Bull Jeep, Mo and I sought additional adventure in nearby Koreatown. The nocturnal bustle of Eighth Street seems a world away from the quiet suburban conflict of the Miracle Mile North HPOZ. Prodded by the description of the otherwise discredited Jon Gold, we went to Dan Sung Sa, a bar whose windowless façade’s kitschy frontispiece promised an element of mystery. (Gold, an increasingly dubious critic yet one with a weekly column, proves Jerry Zucker’s aphorism that “never assume that just because it's someone's job, they know how to do it." [sic])

Dan Sung Sa’s interior strikes immediately. It is a set of three concentric, half-rectangles in the middle of which is a smoky grill manned by two almost elderly women. A long counter with thick brown benches is set up in front of the grill, which is where we sat. At Dan Sung Sa’s perimeter are sets of tables, all carefully spaced and separated with wood retro-looking panels that ensure privacy. The décor has images of what I understand are Korean entertainers, vintage American license plates affixed practically anywhere, and lots of Korean graffiti. The music is bubble gum Korean pop and, while not something I would ever buy, was enjoyable nonetheless.

Our 20-something hipster-server arrived with a long menu entirely in Korean, and he offered to translate. Upon my mangled pronunciation of the Korean Hite beer (it’s not he-tay), the server coolly corrected – “Height.” A spicy cabbage soup that somehow avoided any gustatory resemblance to dishwater accompanied the beer. We next had a tasty skewer of grilled unpeeled shrimp and a beef skewer that only proved that the process of vulcanization should not be used in cooking no matter what Wylie Dufresne and Grant Achatz say.

Next, to my surprise, was perhaps the only kimchi I’ve ever liked, probably because of its nice texture and maybe because it was swimming in a delicious version of the spicy-sweet sauce that seems to be the basis of a good chunk of the Korean kitchen. Dan Sung Sa also served a sushi roll with kimchi in the middle that Marisa liked.

Taking a break, we surveyed the very busy bar and noticed that we were the only ones not smoking and not smoking Reds. Dan Sung Sa could have the finest ventilation system in existence: it rendered the smoke unnoticeable and undermined every anti-smoking ordinance on the books.

We then tried an interesting take on grilled spare ribs, which were served as small pieces, spicy and mainly without bones over which Marisa went crazy. We concluded with my favorite two items of the night: a sprawling seafood pancake with generous amounts of crab and zucchini among other vegetables and rings of sautéed spicy squid. The thicker rings were chewy, though the thinner ones worked perfectly with the Hite, which is Miller Lite's obverse.

We returned a few weeks later with Turtle and Tony and really got in the spirit of things. We took a table, consumed several bottles of Hite and soju, and just kept ordering the $5.00 small plates. I’ve never eaten so much kimchi and with the long non-English menu, I really just hoped that I didn’t eat any smuggled rescues from Bichons and Buddies.

Dan Sung Sa
3317 West 6th Street
(213) 487-9100


jenni h said...

Note to self... do not read I.F. when hungry. HAHA Love the blog M & S!

Pre-tty pre-tty good! :]

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