Hansong Korean Buffet Makes Me Break My Rules… Big Time
As much as I love the Asian food here in Los Angeles, there are two things that really bother me. First… why have all the great dim sum places in the SGV started to favor menus over over carts!? (Carts is the best part of dim sum, damnit!) And second, why is it that none of the all you can eat Korean food spots in K-Town are buffets? What does a short fat Jewish guy have to do to get a proper Korean buffet in this town!?
Now, I know what many of you will say (on both counts). “Wouldn’t you rather have food that’s made fresh?” As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t. I like the element of surprise in my dim sum, and the variety that you get on a great buffet. So when I heard that Hansong, “Best Beef” winner at this year’s Korean BBQ Cook-Off, was a proper all you can eat buffet in Koreatown I got pretty excited. And not even a $17 price tag could keep me from trying out this lunch. (Desperate times call for desperate measures people!)
All you can eat buffets have long been my preferred method of eating. But as fat as I am, and as gross as it is to watch me eat, buffets are not about the stuffing my face until I explode. Well, it’s a little bit about that. (After all, you have to win the game.) But it’s more about the variety. The best meals are the ones where you go out to eat with 7 friends, order a ton of stuff, and share everything- right? A buffet is like eating with all your friends, without having to actually eat with all your friends. (And for those of you who think it’s pathetic to buffet it up alone, I say sometimes it should just be about you and the food. No distractions. Win the game.)
I believe that lunch shouldn’t cost more than $10, but I’ve been known to splurge up to $11 for an all you can eat buffet (naturally). So I was pretty disappointed to learn that Hansong’s buffet is a whopping $17 during lunch. Once, a few years ago, I did cave and go for one of those $18 sushi buffets. But that was with a group of competitive eaters, who went a long way in helping me feel like collectively we destroyed that buffet (we definitely won the game on that day.) But on my own, $17 is a lot of money… so this buffet was going to have to be pretty amazing to convince me it was worth it. (Of course I’d have to do my part as well.)
Hansong is a weird little oasis in the middle of Koreatown. The restaurant itself is surrounded by a pretty cool outdoor patio area- which looked to be close during the day (which is no big thing, because you want to be as close to the buffet as possible in your effort to win the game.) They have free parking, and it’s far enough East to be a viable lunch option for those buffet fanatics working Downtown.
The inside is pretty large and modern, almost like a smallish Vegas buffet- but with Korean food instead of prime rib and smoked salmon.
There are multiple stations, including a salad bar (skip it)
A cold salads station (with squid, and tofu, and noodle salad)
A banchan station, which also included a station serving memilmuk (korean buckwheat jelly)
A “meats” station, with kalbi, bulgogi, Korean fried chicken and pork belly.
And this! (Which I was pretty excited about.) Why they consider the words “head cheese” to be less appetizing than “pork jell-o”, I will never know.
A “Chinese” food-ish station
An “American” station (with mac and cheese and barbecue sauce beef)
And a small sushi station.
For my first plate, I attempted to follow my standard rules for Chinese buffet eating and try a little bit of everything (I feel the rules can be applied to all types of buffets.) But with a buffet this huge, my plate was completely full by the time I made it to the meats. Not good! I threw on a small piece of Korean fried chicken, a piece of pork belly and a piece of the pork jell-o and headed back to the table. The cold salads were ok, but nothing was so good to be necessary. Next time I think I’ll just skip the cold stuff and go straight for the meats.
My second plate was a meat-a-palooza. Two different dishes from the Chinese food bar, bulgogi, kalbi, a slice of that American style BBQ beef (the only mistake of the plate), a few more slices of pork belly and pork jell-o, two more pieces of Korean fried chicken, and yes- that is a whole fish laying on top of the plate. Clearly the kalbi on the buffet isn’t the stuff that won them “best beef” at the Korean BBQ Cookoff, but it was good enough. And the bulgogi was good as well… but the real star of the show was the Korean fried chicken. Super sweet and super sticky (two qualities I enjoy in my Kfc), it’s obviously not as good as Kyochon or Bon Chon- but the pieces were big, tasty, and neverending. It’s also one of the things that will keep bringing me back, over going to one of the all you can Korean BBQ places. Fresh cooked Kalbi and pork belly is nice. But I’ll gladly take slightly less fresh Korean BBQ in exchange for all the rest of the stuff on the Hansong Buffet.
Couldn’t leave without at least trying a little bit from the sushi bar. Not terrible, but far from good. If you’re hoping to “win the game” at the sushi bar, you will definitely be disappointed. For that you should probably go to one of the Japanese buffet chains. (Ironically, the chef at Hansong used to be executive chef at Todai- one of the more well known sushi buffet chains in the US.) Can’t go wrong with tempura though. (Fried stuff FTW!)
Dessert is probably the worst part of any Asian buffet, but I just can’t help but eat a little jello at the end of every buffet. I’m convinced it aids in digestion (or at the very least, signals to my stomach that the assault is coming to an end.) I also was intrigued by the little chocolate cake balls, and almond cookies also on the buffet… which were surprisingly amazing. So much so, I did something I’ve never done at an Asian buffet as long as I can remember.
Went back for dessert seconds. It also emboldened me to try their soft serve and little cakes (big mistake. They were terrible, as originally expected.)
With tax and tip, the meal came out to over $20… a shocking amount for any Midtown Lunch. I didn’t feel I necessarily got my moneys worth on this go-around, but it prepared me to kill it the next time- when every plate will most certainly be a meat-a-palooza. And there will be a next time.
Eventually I will make it around to trying one of those $9.99 all you can eat Korean BBQ spots for lunch. But it’s good to know that I’ll always have Hansong to fall back on for my proper Korean buffet fix.
- I love Korean food, and I love all you can eat buffets. This is my new favorite place.
- Wait, they have Korean BBQ PLUS crappy Chinese food buffet entrees? That’s awesome.
- I love head cheese, and this is the first time I’ve ever seen it on an all you can eat buffet!
- I could go for the Korean fried chicken alone. The rest of the stuff is just gravy (mmmmm… gravy.)
- Best beef winner? There is no way you’re getting the same stuff they won that competition with
- I prefer my Korean BBQ to be cooked fresh
- In fact, all prefer all my food to be fresh. I hate buffets.
- In that same vein, the whole fried fish was soggy from sitting in that steam table
- If I want Korean fried chicken I’ll go to Bon Chon or Kyochon.
- The sushi is kind of terrible.
- $20+ for lunch. Are you on crack!?!
Hansong Buffet, 1925 W. Olympic Blvd, 213-386-1100