We had first heard about Perilla LA, when the L.A. Times and Bill Addison wrote about various to-go / pop-up efforts from Chefs that were struggling to find work during the pandemic. And while pop-ups have appeared in such frequency that they are now almost the norm for finding interesting food to try during these brutal times, Perilla LA stood out because it was a to-go pop-up focused on Korean Banchan (or Side Dishes), which was quite rare.
Founded by Chef Jihee Kim (who worked with Chef Michael Mina, Gary Danko (SF) and Rustic Canyon), Perilla LA marked a return to her Korean roots, making traditional, but also elevated Banchan (Side Dishes) with farmers market seasonal ingredients and adding interesting touches.
We were blown away during our 1st visit last year during the pandemic, and wanted to see how she’s progressed since. During our latest order, we started with:
Cabbage with Perilla Leaf (Fermented Cabbage Layered with Perilla Leaf):
Visually stunning, this was excellent: The Fermented Cabbage was still a touch crisp, with a light funk and herbal Perilla Leaf flavors infused in each bite.
Baek Kimchi (White Kimchi) (Fermented Napa Cabbage Kimchi with Korean Pear, Onion, Ginger, Garlic, Salted Shrimp, and Fish Sauce (GF)):
Ridiculous! Sharp, refreshing, tender leaves of her White Kimchi made with Napa Cabbage. There’s a bright, pointed flavor that really livens the palate, different from the usual Napa Cabbage Spicy Kimchi usually seen at many Korean restaurants. Probably one of the best Baek Kimchi we’ve had in recent memory.
Romanesco Muchim (Blanched Romanesco Seasoned with Creamy Garlic Confit and Grounded Sesame Seed (GF/V)):
Just cooked through Romanesco perfectly supplemented by a nutty Sesame Seed flavor and surprisingly creamy Garlic Confit Sauce. This is the type of unique offering (Farmers Market Romanesco in a Garlic Confit Sauce(!)) that you don’t typically find in many local Korean restaurants that makes Perilla LA standout.
Marinated Dashima (Kombu) (Soy Marinated Dashima (Kombu), Mushroom with Serrano Chili, Garlic, Red Onion (V)):
An excellent contrast to all of the other Banchan offerings from Perilla on this visit, this featured a bold, savory Dashima (Kombu) and Red Onion mixture.
Mixed Mushrooms with Celery Root (Mixed Mushrooms with Celery Root, and Inari Seasoned with Perilla Seeds and Mushroom Salt (V)):
I’m a huge Mushroom fan, but this was probably the one Banchan offering on today’s menu that we didn’t totally love. It wasn’t bad, but the Mushrooms were surprisingly firm, and the Celery Root had a sturdy crunchiness, making the entire dish rather “hard”. I was expecting some softness from the Seasoned Mushrooms, but that wasn’t the case.
Rolled Egg (Rolled Egg with Seaweed (GF)):
These were as tasty as our 1st visit. There’s a strange hypnotic effect if you end up staring into the center of these Rolled Eggs and try to follow the lines. Chef Kim has been making this dish since she was a kid, and they are fantastic! Perfectly cooked Eggs, a little burst of Seaweed in the center, and you have another highlight.
Pickled Shishito Muchim (Pickled Shishito, then Reseasoned with Doenjang, Garlic and Sesame Oil (V)):
Another excellent offering. The Shishito Peppers are beautifully aromatic, and while you might get “lucky” and hit a super spicy Pepper in the batch (usually Shishito Peppers are mild), the earthiness of the Doenjang (Soybean Paste), sharp Garlic and Sesame Oil balance it all out.
Broccolini with Tofu (Blanched Broccolini with Broken Tofu Seasoned with Fish Sauce and Sesame Oil (GF)):
Refreshing and summery Broccolini slivers. The Broken Tofu with Fish Sauce and Sesame Oil added a nice aromatic pungency as well.
Gimbap (Rice, Avocado, Mushroom, Pickled Daikon, Garlic Chive Rolled in with Toasted Seaweed, Comes with Hot Mustard Sauce):
This was our favorite dish from our 1st visit last year. I am not a Gimbap expert (the Korean Rolls of Rice wrapped with Seaweed that resembles various Japanese Cut Rolls, but with different fillings). However, of the limited amount of Gimbap we’ve tried over the years, Perilla LA’s Gimbap might very well be the best I’ve ever had!
First, it’s made fresh to order, so many versions you find in Korean supermarkets or various places taste like it’s premade. The Rice here is not dried out, still pliant and the fillings are incredibly fresh and bright. The Pickled Carrots, Radish, the bit of creaminess in the Avocado, Mushroom, the Garlic Chives, and that incredible Hot Mustard Sauce!
It may not sound like much, but the confluence of all of the ingredients together make this an outstanding dish on Perilla LA’s menu. Must order and still a highlight on the menu.
Smoked Eggs (Smoked Soy Sauce Marinated Egg with Ginger, Sake, Mirin, and Yuzu Syrup):
These were fantastic! They were like Chef Kim’s take on the classic Ramen offering of a Hanjuku Tamago (those perfectly cooked “Half-Boiled Eggs” with a soft, molten center). The most interesting thing about the flavor was that somehow the infusion of smoking Soy Sauce Marinated Eggs (along with Ginger, Sake, Mirin and Yuzu Syrup), creates the flavor of… Bacon! Even though there’s no Bacon or other meat used here, it had a wonderful Bacon-y flavor.
Spicy Bulgogi (Thin Sliced Beef Marinated with Gochujang Sauce and Yuba):
This was a surprise highlight from our 1st visit, as Chef Kim had a hot dish (as opposed to the chilled Banchan that makes up most of her menu) that turned out to be one of the best renditions of Bulgogi (Korean BBQ favorite of thin slices of Marinated Beef) we’ve ever had(!).
Sadly, during this latest visit, it was a totally different dish: The Bulgogi was full of gristle and connective tissue. It was extremely chewy and the Yuba (Tofu Skin) was also different, a bit more sturdy (not bad). We chalk it up to a bad cut of Beef (probably an edge piece), but hopefully this was an outlier, as our 1st visit’s version was tender and sublime (with no gristle at all).
Doenjang Marinated Chicken (Doenjang (Fermented Soybean Paste) Marinated Chicken with Wood Ear Mushrooms):
This was another hot dish, and special just added to the menu. Each piece of Marinated Chicken was moist and tender, and the Doenjang (Fermented Soybean Paste) infusion added a lovely savory, crave-worthy quality to each bite. It was a touch salty on its own, but clearly it was meant to be eaten with some Steamed Rice, or with the next dish…
Seasoned Rice (Rice Seasoned with Soy Marinated Mushroom, Pickles, Furikake, Nori):
A bite of that Doenjang Marinated Chicken and her Seasoned Rice and you had a perfect balance!
The Seasoned Rice on its own was quite delicate and lightly seasoned (a good thing), as it was perfect for enjoying with any of her Banchan (Side Dishes), or the hot dish offerings.
Ordering is via Perilla LA’s online site and then they will confirm your order and send a pickup address (in the Koreatown area).
Chef Jihee Kim and her new Takeout project Perilla LA is providing a beautiful source for elevated Banchan (Korean Side Dishes) and other tasty creations. While we loved her Banchan during the hot Summer months, the array of chilled Banchan were the perfect antidote not only to the melting heat, but a refreshing bite that worked well during the tail end of Winter / start of Spring as well. If there’s one thing that felt “missing” perhaps, would be the familiar pungent, funky aged Kimchi to go along with all of these fantastic Banchan.
But otherwise, her wonderful variety of Banchan provide a fantastic spectrum of flavor on any given week (inspired by what’s fresh at the local farmers markets). Don’t forget to also try her Gimbap, quite possibly the best Gimbap I’ve had in L.A., especially with that Hot Mustard Sauce. Wow.
Perilla LA is creating invigorating dishes that feel perfect during each season. If there’s a silver lining in all of this madness, it’s that we might not have experienced the greatness of Perilla LA had it not been for the pandemic pushing Chef Jihee Kim out of her previous restaurant position. Here’s to hoping Perilla and Chef Kim will continue thriving and creating more greatness for years to come.
Instagram for latest dish info: