School Food Blooming Roll, a Korean Chain, Now Stateside at MaDang Courtyard
Esther Hahn School Food's Kimchi Noodles, "Jjol Jjol Myun"
Restaurant openings in Koreatown seem to follow a distinct pattern: first, grow into a popular, multi-location chain in Korea, then open an outpost in L.A. That has been the case for the successful restaurants Yu Chun Chic, Chil Bo Myun Ok, and now School Food, a Seoul favorite catering to the young, K-Pop crowds.
Offering such casual fare as kimbap (Korean-style sushi rolls), ramen bowls with tobokki (savory, glutinous rice cakes) and kimchi risotto with cheese, School Food neatly packages and presents its foods in a hip setting, changing these formerly typecast, after-school snacks into complete and proper meals.
We first sampled the "munchies"-centric menu last summer in Seoul, at School Food's Sinsa-dong branch within the Gangnam district, and thought that the concept would translate well in L.A.'s Koreatown food scene. Little did we know then that School Food would pop up in K-Town in the early part of this past May.
Located on the third level of the MaDang Courtyard, School Food offers sit-down, take-out, delivery, and soju/beer/wine services. Prices are not exactly cheap, since a proper School Food experience involves tasting multiple dishes (though individual dishes are in the $6-$11 range). While desserts are not clearly listed on the menu, be sure to ask about them since there are some interesting offerings, like candied yams with sweet tobokki.
There are kinks to be worked out -- service is slow (and not exactly bilingual), and the perfected flavors at the Korean outposts haven't entirely crossed the Pacific yet. But if the heavy franchise marketing on School Food's Korean website is any indication, L.A.'s School Food is but the first of many more to come in the US. We predict that NYC's isn't too far behind. Regardless, it still feels good to be chosen first.
School Food Blooming Roll: 621 S. Western Ave., Third Floor, L.A., (213) 380-3663.
Esther Hahn Ramen with Topokki
Esther Hahn Squid Ink Kimbap Filled with Squid
Esther Hahn The Yuzu Citrus and Aloe Vera Specialty Drinks
Esther Hahn Smelt Eggs with Daikon Sprouts Kimbap