Katsu and Kimbap and Kimchi, Oh My!

Kid-friendly Korean katsu and kimbap land on Southeast Hawthorne.

Courtesy of Denise Castañon

Always up to try something new, my family ventured to Mokdong Gimbap for lunch a few weeks after it officially opened in the old Frog & Snail space on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard. The Korean restaurant offers katsu (breaded and fried) chicken, beef and fish; bibimbap; and kimbap, Korean sushi-style rolls filled with veggies or cooked meat and fish.

Once you walk into the space, you’ll notice a large touch-screen menu for no-contact ordering. From there, you can seat yourself. We found an open four top right next to the front door in the slightly crowded and busy room. But my husband noticed some customers heading to the back of the restaurant and wondered if there was more seating in the back. I investigated and there was! It was a slightly drafty, enclosed, covered patio. But with the large heater on, we were comfortable. The space had a quasi-storage-area feel with a giant pack of to-go boxes randomly placed on a hutch, but my family liked the colorful, fabric parasols that decorated the ceiling and we had much more space to spread out. (We also spied highchairs, but noted that the restroom did not have a changing table.)

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Courtesy of Denise Castañon

After we sat down in the back room, a server came and asked for our receipt. Shortly after she brought out our order of kimchi and pork-and-vegetable gyoza (five for $7). My 9-year-old son, Cruz, has taken tae kwon do for several years and is enthusiastic about Korean culture and food. He wanted to try kimchi ($4.50) so we ordered it. The fermented, spiced cabbage was not overpoweringly spicy or funky, but he didn’t eat more after his initial taste. It was still a win in my book.

Our order came out in bits and pieces and that was just fine. We didn’t order the kids their own entrees because we weren’t sure just how hungry they were — and whether or not they’d actually eat them. The plates looked big, so my husband and I figured we’d get them gyoza and share our plates with them. I ordered the bibimbap with beef bulgogi ($17); it was a huge and beautifully bright platter of vegetables, egg, rice and beef.

Courtesy of Denise Castañon

I had the kids try the bulgogi and they loved it. The cucumbers doused in sesame oil were especially good and I knew Cruz would appreciate them. After he failed to use his chopsticks to get a taste, I used mine to feed him and jokingly said I was feeding him like a baby bird. He loved that and referred to himself as the baby bird for the rest of the meal. He also loved the cucumbers, so I fed him more. He also shared my rice, which had a delicious sesame flavor. My 11-year-old daughter, Adela, kept eating the bulgogi.

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Once the kids had finished taking what they wanted from my plate, I added some kimchi and mixed everything up. And thoroughly enjoyed the mix of textures and flavors the veggies supplied. Then my husband’s beef katsu came out and Adela started eating that. While the serving of beef katsu ($18) was hefty, it was no match for Adela, Cruz and my husband. The tonkatsu sauce on the side was just right. My husband also tried the original kimbap with egg, cucumber, carrot, daikon, burdock and sesame seeds ($5, pictured right). He declared it very good and appreciated the little cabbage salad that accompanied it.

Our only regret about lunch at Mokdong Gimbap was not ordering more food! Adela probably could have eaten her own katsu plate or split one with Cruz if we ordered more gyoza. My husband definitely would have eaten his entree by himself. But now we know for next time. 

Denise Castañon
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