Classic Tables: Jeon Ju

Yesterday's trend, ever delicious

A nicotine-yellow 2002 article from the Los Angeles Times hangs on the back wall of Koreatown's Jeon Ju.

In the piece, the 15-year-old restaurant's specialty, bibimbap, is heralded as a hot new trend, the sweep of its popularity in L.A. charted from Koreatown roots to cameo appearances at restaurants in Pasadena and on the Westside.

We know dining trends to be fickle, and surely this year's fried Brussels sprouts craze will fizzle just like 2002's rash of bibimbap. But the decidedly unhip crowd that we sat amongst during a recent lunch–mostly middle-aged Koreans–couldn't care less. They come for the quality food, not the zeitgeist.

Weak barley tea (served iced this time of year) and a diverse selection of eight or so panchan are set at every table, inevitably followed by some version of bibimbap.

We always order the cooked-kimchi-and-kalbi dolsot bibimbap (pictured; $10), served in a superheated stone bowl. The bits of beef are secondary to the lacto-fermented funk of the bowl's sizable knot of kimchi. We eat this dish slowly, taking shallow chopstick-fulls from the center.

The goal is to not disturb the developing shell of crisp rice, which we save for the meal's crunchy finale.

Jeon Ju, 2716 W. Olympic Blvd., Koreatown; 213-386-5678