Korean-American food is Getting a Makeover Thanks to LA's Yangban Society
This new restaurant inspired by Katianna and John Hong's heritage hopes to get a bit rowdier.
On Monday, Katianna Hong and John Hong opened Yangban Society, a Los Angeles deli and market that combines cultures and creates a unique culinary language.
At Yangban Society, a Korean barbecue restaurant in LA's Arts District, you will find a pea-shoot-and-chive salad that is a variation of raw scallion banchan. As Katianna learned how to cook Bolognese at an Italian restaurant in Las Vegas, she has prepared a rice bowl with black bean sauce, which is a nod to both Korean jajangmyeon and Bolognese. There is currently a lot of work going on with the Hongs, as they are making fuyu persimmon kimchi. This is the result of a persimmon gift from their daughter's daycare teacher, but the recipe is inspired by the spicy, crunchy, and garlicky kimchi John's mother makes.
Having worked together at LA's tasting-menu destination Mélisse, the Hongs have a great deal of fine-dining experience. In the years that followed, John was the chef de cuisine at the three-star Michelin restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley, after Katianna left Meadowood to open Charter Oak. John took over the role after Katianna left Meadowood. It has long been a dream of theirs to do something more personal, and they are thrilled to be doing that at a moment when other Korean-American chefs are doing the same.
It is important to note that Yangban Society is not only about Katianna and John's love of delis, particularly the Jewish and European delis that she frequented in New York and which he frequented in the suburbs of Chicago, but it also grew out of their trip to Korea in 2012. Instigated by what they had eaten and experienced, they decided to learn more about Korean regional cuisine.
Among the many dishes that the Hongs are serving, for example, is a Korean dumpling soup that is based on a recipe that Katianna's Jewish grandmother gave her for matzo balls.
Occasionally, chefs may follow a playbook, but then realize that they should develop their own playbook as well. In the alley, milk crate seating, kimchi-and-pork-belly posole and kimchi-and-pork-belly posole are on the menu of these former tweezer-food superstars' counter-service restaurant. Guests will be able to sit in the two-floor space that once served Lincoln Carson’s Bon Temps as the former restaurant, as long as they wish.
Their playlists feature a lot of hip-hop from the 1990s and early 2000s as well as the vintage ticket machine they inherited from an old deli. In addition to serving rotisserie chicken that has been aggressively brined, Yangban Society intends to serve canned cocktails, wine, Hite beer, and Yangban Society's customized makgeolli collaboration with local brewer Sawtelle Sake, as well as buffalo-milk soft-serve from Double 8 Dairy. There is also a "super" in the Yangban Society space, which is a little market with refrigerators full of beverages, in addition to a selection of locally produced crafts.
The Hong's would love to see things get raucous at night, even if the menu and service model are the same during the day.