Korean cuisine in Old Town Pasadena.
Thank you Lord something took over the space that was once occupied by the long gone and not all that missed Yujean Kang’s.
Osek is what you would call a general service Korean place. Where in K Town things restaurants would be broken down along the lines of a Galbi place over here, and a Soon Tofu place over there, with Osek you get everything under one roof.
Space is nice and open. You can just roll in sit down and relax, and have a glass of green tea and a couple of really nice looking small plates. It wasn’t hard to get a seat. Then again, that may be one of the concerns.
Look, the main problem I had with Osek, as nice as it was is that this is the first time I’ve been to a Korean place where the flavors have been (for lack of a better word) dumbed down for the non-Korean palette.
That just won’t do.
I always liked what Roy Choi said about Korean flavors, how they were highly aggressive. How it can be like seeing sunlight for the first time, they were so intense.
Well…that’s not…happening at Osek. I don’t know why they chose to go that route, but they did.
And let’s be clear, I had a good enough time at Osek. My meal was…okay. But that’s all it was, okay. It wasn’t a meal that jumped out at you, that popped, that made you want to come back for more.
It actually made me want to go go K-Town in the near future.
I guess there’s a market for this. “Training Wheels” for Korean food as it were. But one of Korean Cuisine’s great advantages in the marketplace was that it was the last gastronomic import that was ever going to change. That Korean Food wasn’t ever going to be “dumbed down” as it where.
Yet, here we are.
In the end, I still think it’s a better idea to go to Koreatown to get your dinner than to chance a place like this. It
You look up and down this menu, and you’ll see a lot of familiar favorites. You’ll even see some things you haven’t tried before. Maybe that’s where Osek’s true strength lies. Maybe you come here to try something new. Maybe Osek should be your Korean Food 101, before you head on out to Koreatown and get your diploma.
WHAT SHOULD I GET?: I led off two Korean appetizers that I have not tried yet. One, at least I had heard of, and that was the Mandu, which is the Korean equivalent to Japanese Gyoza or Chinese Xialongbao. These where filled with Beef and deep fried, and they weren’t entirely bad. Though, they’re not going to keep me from my next trip to Din Tai Fung.
Now, reading up on Mandu, I can’t tell if this is standard deal or not, since there seem to be as many kinds of Mandu as there are stars in the sky. Is there a deep fried variety? Can’t tell from my research. Maybe someone could enlighten me.
Next was a Gochu Twigum that was in Osek’s Small plate menu. It is basically a Korean Chili stuffed with Beef Bulgogi and Sour Cream sauce. Deep fried, of course. Oddly enough, I tasted the pepper, but rest of the dish tasted flat to me.
In and around this time, Osek served me a sample size of their Pumpkin Potato Salad. Mind you, so far…not a trace of Banchan anywhere to be see, and Potato Salad is a Banchan staple. I hope this makes the menu, because even though I don’t much like Potato Salad, what Osek served me had me well on my way to becoming a convert.
Finally, the main dish arrived Kimchi Pajeon, which is a green onion pancake, pan fried (there’s that word again) and served up. When I talk about how I felt the flavors at Osek were dumbed down, this is the dish I’m mainly talking about. I braced for that zing that punch of Kimchi in this dish and it never came. Now, it could be because I’m still relatively new to the Korean version of this dish, or I’m judging it too strongly against its Taiwanese counterpart, but…it just didn’t do it for me. This is what is making me want to go into K-Town and try it again.
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIP, PEOPLE: Let me get my Dad out of the way, since he has a single, abiding concern of all things Old Town Pasadena, that he needs addressed before he even considers darkening your door.
Yes, Osek has Bathrooms.
No, that’s not always a guarantee in some of these Old Town joints.
Other than that, nothing too concerning, despite the “meh” nature of the meal. I’ll give them this. At least they’re trying.
PARKING: Consult our Old Town Pasadena Parking Map. The night I went was Artnight Pasadena. I decided on the Schoolhouse, since it was a decent bit away from the main Artnight action, and walked to the Armory, where the Kogi truck was. When I saw the line for Kogi, I turned around and looked at Vertical. When that was overcrowded, I turned to Osek.
Osek Korean Cuisine
67 N. Raymond Ave.
Pasadena, CA 91103
Tel: (626) 644-1299
Sunday-Thursday: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm / 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Friday-Saturday: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm / 5:30 pm – 9:30 pm