Location: 4001 W Olympic Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90019. (323) 936-9106
Date: November 13, 2013
Rating: The crab is amazing
A new wine and food friend of mine who happens to be Korean wanted to introduce me to Soban and the wonderful world of Korean raw crab. This popular k-town joint looks much like many others.
The English menu. There is a separate Korean one with no pictures.
2011 Inama Soave Classico Vigneti di Foscarino. Parker 92. Creamy and rich, this is so beautifully expressive and profound. There’s nothing obvious about this remarkable wine. Its aromatic evolution spans from crushed mineral and pencil shaving to lemon curd, vanilla custard and sun-kissed apricot. This is a Soave Classico dressed in its Sunday best. It sees six months of oak, of which 20% is new. Those two-fold veins of acidity and minerality will help it age.
We had to sneak these in tea cups, as alcohol isn’t allowed at Soban.
Like all Korean restaurants they lay out a spread of sides.
Wonderful soft egg custard, much like a savory version of Tamago.
Fried tofu with a slightly spicy sesame sauce.
The usual white rice, which I normally wouldn’t picture, but it will become important later.
This is the crab. It’s a Korean species specially flown in, then marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, mirin, sugar, garlic and ginger for several days. Soban is apparently the only LA place that uses real Korean crab.
The meat is clear and gelatinous, and you suck it right not, almost like squeezing toothpaste from a tube. It has a wonderful subtle briny flavor with more than a hint of ginger. Really quite nice, if a little slimly by the average American textural sensibility.
Then, one can mix some rice in with the row and “crab brain” (guts). This is a wonderful treat. My host actually gave the idea to Yama-san at Yamakase (you can see it here). I happen to love crab guts. Not everyone does, but they have a delightful briny savory quality that blends perfectly with the starchy rice.
Grilled cod. This is a simple fish, but cooked to perfection and complete with a large delicately cooked roe. Yum! In some ways it was like the Korean version of your simple Mediterranean sea bass.
This is a fermented and soy paste stew. It smells rather… fermented (like Nato), but has a complex and interesting taste with more than a little heat.
Spicy mackerel, tofu, and mixed vegetables. This dish had a bit of heat, not overwhelming, but that red Korean kimchee style heat. The mackerel was very flavorful, and not particularly fishy.
Octopus in spicy sauce. The sauce is similar to the mackerel, but they use a Korean species of fresh octopus that is very tender. It was quite nice.
Overall, this was a great little meal, with the crab (and the crab guts on rice) being the real highlight. That’s a very unusual dish and well worth trying if you have the guts! (haha)