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Shin's recipe: friends and food

Keeping his Korean barbecue simple and the vibe laid-back, the L.A. native is sure to expand his circle in Hollywood.

September 15, 2008|Jessica Gelt | Times Staff Writer

TO HEAR Simon Shin talk, you'd think he opened his new Korean barbecue restaurant Shin in Hollywood just to keep his hungry pals happy.

"I really want to have my friends eat good food," says the affable Shin, explaining how as a Korean kid growing up in Los Angeles he was lucky enough to fall in with a tightknit group of people, some of whom, such as actor Danny Masterson, ended up being successful in TV and film. (Shin's parents are in the restaurant business and own several popular Koreatown spots.) "As I got older, my friends were curious about Korean food, and I would cook for them -- something simple like ribs, and they loved it."

Those same ribs are on the menu at Shin. Priced at $25 for a full order and $15 for a half order, the ribs are succulent quarter-inch slices of deep red, bone-in prime rib marinated in a light sauce that is at once subtly sweet and pointedly tangy. The ribs go nicely with the $18 vegetable platter, which comes with thick slices of eggplant, potato and crunchy lotus root. The vegetables and the ingredients in the accompanying condiments, or banchan, will change seasonally.

Shin, who on a recent Wednesday night breezed around the restaurant, mingling easily with friends as if he were in his own living room, has a light touch when it comes to seasoning. The result is that each ingredient in the eight or so small bowls of banchan that come with your order retains its own base flavor and natural juices.

A dense, cold slice of omelet is filled with flecks of crunchy carrot; powder-pink radish is sliced transparently thin and lies in sweet water at the bottom of a bowl; a fruit salad sprinkled with raisins is tossed in a delicate mayonnaise sauce; and small chunks of broccoli are sauteed but have a satisfying snap.

Meat that you cook yourself on modern, downward-smoke-sucking tabletop grills, is of course the focus of the menu. Unlike at other Korean barbecues -- a number have opened lately, notably Jian on Beverly and Gyenari in Culver City -- the marinated Spencer steak, a Korean barbecue staple, is cooked in the kitchen because it's so thin that it will slip through the grill. All the other meats -- ribs, pork belly, chicken marinated with ginger, tiger shrimp and tender beef brisket -- are yours for the searing.

The brisket is sliced razor-thin and comes on a plate with each bright-red slice folded just so and arranged in a flower-like pattern. Since the restaurant itself is so frill-free -- black banquettes, rows of varnished dark-wood tables, a large gong and an eerie moonscape of an aquarium behind the bar, where a lone white jellyfish floats -- this thoughtful presentation is a welcome touch.

The attention to detail is in line with the overall vibe of Shin, which is laid-back but focused on serving simple, fresh Korean food -- albeit geared toward the slightly frightened American palate. Note the lack of anything too foreign, tongue or tripe for instance, which are crowd-pleasers in Koreatown.

"The recipes are basically authentic Korean recipes," says Shin. "But I've tweaked it . . . taken out some of the fishier elements and hot spice. I know what my friends would eat."

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jessica.gelt@latimes.com

Shin, 1600 N. Wilcox Ave., Hollywood. 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tuesdays through Sundays. Meat, $15-$35; soups, $12-$25; rice, noodles, $15. Full bar. (323) 464-4100, www.shinbbq.com.

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