Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chung Hae Jin - 10/26/2011

3470 W 6th Street
Ste 8A
Los Angeles, CA 90020
(213) 384-5825

One of the basic assumptions of food that most people take for granted is that food should not move under its own power. The one notable exception that comes to mind is Sannakji, a Korean dish consisting of raw octopus tentacles. Nicole of Cake and Heels was kind enough to invite me to Chung Hae Jin with her friends who were brave enough to try it.

First up was a small basket of tempura. The batter was crisp, airy, and not overly oily; just how a good tempura should be. Unfortunately, there wasn't quite enough to go around the entire table.

Clam Soup
Along with the tempura came a light clam broth, thin and watery with a light salinity from the clams.

Izmidai Salad with Hot Sauce
Think of this as a sashimi salad Korean-style, the dressing was a bold spicy sauce, rather than the tangy ponzu based sauces at Japanese restaurants.

Hama Hama Oysters
These large generously fleshy oysters were topped with a dollop of hot sauce which gave them a nice spicy smack that faded away to reveal the bivalve's characteristic brine.

Sea Squirt
Sea Squirts are tubular filter feeding invertebrates that attach to rocks or shells. Contained within the thick leathery "tunic", is a yellowish cartilaginous flesh that tasted intensely of brackish water. Aside from the Sannakji, this was probably the most challenging dish of the night.

Marinated Octopus
Along with the sea squirt came a teaser for the main course. The mild octopus had a pleasing firmness and gentle tartness that the entire party seemed to enjoy.

Live Abalone
This was probably my favorite course of the night. Aside from the snappy foot muscle, we were served the abalone's dark grey innards which were noticeably milder than other preparations that I've had.

Live Lobster
I quite enjoyed the live lobster, the firm cream colored flesh had a nice bite to it and a trace of brine-tinged sweetness. As we were eating, one of the lobster's swimmerets would twitch occasionally drawing stares from some people at the table.

Chung Hae Jin is known for its live halibut sashimi so it stands to reason this gargantuan platter of sashimi would serve as our main course. Primarily composed of the aforementioned halibut, there was also octopus, yellow tail, salmon and tuna thrown in for good measure. Though the sashimi was enjoyable, it quickly became overwhelming without something to break up the parade of raw fish.

Grilled Unagi
In addition to being a touch overdone, the eel needed a bit more seasoning, quite the departure from the typical sauce drenched preparation at sushi restaurants.

The "live" octopus tentacles came to the table wriggling fiercely much to the consternation of our party. One of the other diners in attendance had never eaten raw fish before and up to this point had taken everything in stride, but the sight of the severed tentacles writhing on their own distressed him to no end (much to the amusement of Nicole). The movement died down once the plate was placed on the table, but any sort of contact or motion caused the entire mass to undulate disconcertingly again. In the end all the build up was for naught, I found the tentacles to be quite benign and aside from one piece that got stuck to the roof of my mouth I couldn't tell any difference from normal raw octopus.

Grilled Mackerel
Mackerel is already one of the oilier fishes and grilling the fish just dried it out, exacerbating the flavor. Though I didn't care much for the fish, having something cooked was a nice change of pace.

Spicy Lobster Soup
The final course was a soup made from the shell of the lobster sashimi we had earlier. I appreciated the bold spicy flavor but I wish they threw in some noodles to counter all that raw fish and beer roiling around in my gut.

The food at Chung Hae Jin isn't particularly impressive, but then again I wasn't expecting it to be. I came to try the Sannakji and without that novelty, I really don't see a compelling reason for a return trip.


NicoleM said...

I'm seriously impressed you figured out what all of those dishes were...

Photos, as always amazing & I totally agree about the food, but watching Julian try to tackle the Sannakji sorta made the whole second trip worth it :).

So... where are we going next?

Charlie Fu said...

check out Dongbu sushi in rowland heights. Significantly better and more of a mom/pop shop. Same style of korean raw fish.

sygyzy said...

If you hadn't told me this was a Korean restaurant I wouldn't have known. It looks 100% Japanese, except for the one dish with the red korean chili paste. Everything else practically is Japanese. Strange.

Epicuryan said...

Some of those were educated guesses. BTW did you post the video of Julian?

Thanks I'll have to give it a shot. I think I prefer Japanese sushi, but it could just be comfortable due to its familiarity.

Yeah the differences are subtle, aside from the spicy sauce, I found the cuts of fish to be a bit larger. There are other accompaniments like chojang, perilla leaf and garlic cloves that aren't pictured.