Ken Bridge is ready to unveil his most personal restaurant. The veteran restaurateur, who operates businesses such as Pink’s Pizza and Lola Neighborhood Diner as part of his Delicious Concepts hospitality group, will open his Korean barbecue restaurant Mapojeong Galbijin today (Tuesday, February 15).
Located in the former Ritual space in The Heights, Mapojeong takes inspiration from the Korean BBQ places Bridge experienced during his childhood in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles combined with his adult experiences visiting more modern restaurants in both Los Angeles and Korea. Bridge explains that when he was growing up sitting down to a feast of grilled meats wasn’t a typical weeknight meal.
“We had our set three or four restaurants we’d go to. On special occasions, we’d go to a Korean buffet. They were way different [than regular restaurants],” Bridge tells CultureMap. “Growing up, the buffets we went to were like $30 per person. They were high end.”
Offering a high-end experience means using top quality ingredients. Towards that end, Mapojeong serves Prime beef such as marinated short rib, ribeye, and New York strip alongside marinated pork and marinated chicken. As the restaurant develops, it will also offer dry-aged beef that’s aged in-house.
“We’re aiming to go straight to the palate jugular and knock it out of the park with the flavors and the recipes and the experience,” Bridge says.
Helping achieve that goal means offering a full range of starters. Mapojeong will serve dishes such as Korean fried chicken, short rib mandu, and bulgogi tteokbokki (chewy rice dumplings). In addition, look for soups and full range of housemade banchan that will include marinated cucumbers, bean sprouts, and kimchi. Beverage options will include cocktails and different flavors of soju.
“I did the menu,” Bridge says. “It wasn’t difficult for me. I’ve been cooking this most of my life.”
At Mapojeong, the tabletop cooking will be left to the restaurant’s servers, all of whom have been trained in the art of cooking the meats to the right degree of doneness. Bridge says he plans to limit reservations for now until he’s hired enough staff to operate the whole space efficiently.
Regardless of what they order, Bridge wants diners to feel comfortable and enjoy their experience without being too worried about the “right” way to eat any specific dish. After all, these meals are meant to bring friends together for a celebratory event.
“Some would say if you have marinated short rib, that’s not meant to be dipped in sesame oil and salt. That’s meant for a more plain pork and beef,” he says.
“But who made those rules? I’ll take marinated kalbi and dip it in ssamjang. I’ll take it how it is and wrap it in bo ssam or eat it straight. For me, it’s finding what you love.”