Where's the (Piedmontese) beef in Los Angeles? Go to StarKing BBQ on the edge of Koreatown, and have the tastiest bone-in ribeye and other tender and delicious barbecued meats, from the cutting edge "tomahawk" ribeye to brisket point, short ribs and even a tartare, from a rare breed of cattle originally born in the Italian Alps but now bred in Nebraska.
Now under new management, owner Jackie Yoo introduced Piedmontese beef to the menu and in just a short time LA Weekly has included the restaurant in its "Best Of" edition. It is the only Korean restaurant with Piedmontese beef on the menu. And because most of the meals are served in a combination form to be shared, it also translates into affordability.
Aside from the meat there is an array of fermented and pickled vegetables (banchan) served with the meal, encircling the star of any Korean repast, kimchi. I particularly liked the tiny salted fish mixed with cashews in a reduced sauce with a touch of sweetness and the beef broth soup with a bit of meat in the center. But the broccolini salad, pickled radish, bean sprouts, yams, other greens and starches served with three dipping sauces, compliment this carnivore's delight.
You can wash and cool it down with bottles of ice water left on your table, barley tea, soju (the famous, distilled, vodka-like, high potency rice liquor), beer, wine or soft drinks.
The restaurant is expansive with an unadorned front dining area, a back room with warm dark wood-paneled decor and private dining spaces off the sides with evocative large and colorful Korean art pieces above the tables, and an outdoor covered patio for day and night dining.
In the 1970s one bull and four cows were brought from Italy and now the population of Piedmontese cattle has grown to 15,000, still accounting for only 1% of all cattle in the United States.
A genetic trait in the animal's musculature creates less connective tissue which keeps the meat tender with less fat content. In short, this means every cut of the meat is lower in fat and calories, higher in protein and still contains a higher percentage of healthy Omega 3 fat. It also creates "double muscles" for a greater yield of premium cuts.
The huge Piedmontese are as tender and flavorful, but leaner and more textured, and not as marbled or fatty, as Wagyu or Japanese Kobe. Since the trait runs through the whole animal, all cuts have the chracteristic, and Star King BBQ will soon be featuring other cuts, such as intestines and tongue, which are popular with Koreans.
For the health conscious, the meat is raised on a vegetarian diet with no antibiotics, steroids or growth hormones. Also healthy are the special coals used to cook the meat over the mid table braziers. Called the unfortunate name of "soot," they produce no soot and cook with a high heat and no chemical release.
Star King BBQ is located at 3807 Wilshire Blvd. at Western, diagonally across from the Wiltern Theater. A block west the restaurant has free covered parking on Manhattan Street or valet in front.
For reservations, 213-384-5464 and when you're at the restaurant practice your Italian by saying "Piedemontese per favore," Korean for great beef!