Kobawoo’s Bossam Lunch Special Is The Greatest Thing Of All Time
Last month The Guru released his annual 99 Essential Restaurants list, and naturally I scoured it with an eye towards under $10 lunches. One in particular that caught my eye was Kobawoo, a Koreatown bossam specialist. Their signature dish (the bossam) is a big $27 plate filled with slices of boiled pork belly, a special kimchi, and possibly raw oysters? As great as it sounded it’s waaay out of the ML price range- but I was super excited to discover that they have a lunch special portion of bossam for under $10!!!
For around $9 you get about 6-8 slices of pork belly, a big scoop of this special sweet and spicy kimchi, a small spoonful of these fermented (?) shrimp, plus cabbage and pickled daikon. The way it works is you take a slice of the daikon, or one of the pieces of lightly cooked (or possibly brined) cabbage, put a slice of pork belly on it with some of the kimchi and shrimp, roll it up and stuff it in your face. Sooooo good! The warm, fatty pork belly with the sweet and spicy kimchi, topped off with those super salty, mildly funky shrimp… it’s food perfection. But wait! There’s more. This alone would be worth the $9, but you also get a bowl of dean jang chigae, a hearty korean stew made from soybean paste (imagine the best miso soup you’ve ever had.)
The bossam isn’t the only lunch special they have, the dotori gooksoo is also a great option. It’s a big scoop of cold acorn noodles covered in a sweet and spicy sauce and surrounded by a salad’ish mixture of romaine, carrots, cabbage and a hard boiled egg. You mix the whole thing together, and enjoy. (The waiter actually did it for us… I guess because we were white.) Feast your eyes on this one people… this is the healthiest dish (and the closest thing to salad) you will ever see me eat!
There’s also a pretty standard version of bibimbap, but unless you’re there with a big group and sharing I wouldn’t go just for this. There are waaay cheaper versions of bibimbap to be had (like the $6 version at Mapo which comes with a boatload of panchan, the small side dishes you get at the beginning of the meal.)
Speaking of panchan, Kobawoo’s lunchtime offerings are modest (you only get 4) but they were all good, and I especially liked the rolled omelette thingy. They also brought more without us having to ask. Huge bonus.
Of course you don’t need me (or the Guru) to tell you this place is great for lunch, the crowds do that for you. Expect a little bit of a wait during lunchtime, but you can pass the time standing in front of their free coffee/tea dispenser by the door. Not that exciting until you realize the coffee and and tea come mixed with a shit ton of milk and sugar (kind of like a Korean cafe con leche.) Amazing… and all you have to is press the button- it dispenses the cup for you.
So maybe “greatest thing of all time” is a bit of hyperbole… but I have to say I was pretty excited by this lunch. $9 for bossam *and* one of the best Korean soups I’ve ever had is totally a steal. That plus the panchan and the free coffee outside makes it a lunch I’d happily eat alone any day of the week. Of course going with a group and splitting the bossam, dotori gooksoo, bibimbap and maybe even one of their much touted pancakes would only make it that much better.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- You can get a lunch special version of their famous bossam for under $10? That’s awesome.
- The dotori gooksoo is good too
- All 4 panchan are good, especially that rolled omelette thing
- You have to try the free coffee and tea dispenser at the door! Either before, while you wait. Or after you’re done as a little dessert.
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- There are plenty of cheaper (and better) places to get dotori gooksoo and bibimbap in Koreatown
- I don’t like pork belly
- The portion isn’t big enough! More pork belly!
- You have to wait to get a table during lunch? No thank you.
- That fermented shrimp stuff is weird! Why did you make me eat that?
Kobawoo, 698 S Vermont Ave, 213-389-7300
There is a small lot in front with parking.