To kick off the weekend and celebrate the completion of my Master’s degree, I decided to try out MoKo in Culver City with my usual partner in culinary crime, Kristen of Rock My Palate and Husband aka the Cat Wrangler.
MoKo replaces the space that was once Gyenari. Husband and I used to eat at Gyenari for lunch since his workplace was nearby and tried the KBBQ dinners there a couple of times. While a little on the expensive side, we always enjoyed the food and the portions were enough to fill us up. We were a little sad when we heard Gyenari was being replaced but I was curious to see what would be taking over. MoKo is a new venture by Will Shin of Gyenari with Chris Heyman (Table 8 and 8 oz.) and Chef Gary Robins (Russian Tea Room – NYC). The menu is still Korean-influenced and it did retain some “grill your own” tabletop options but it is definitely no longer a KBBQ joint. Instead, the idea is to order several plates for sharing, sort of like a Korean tapas bar.
We opted for the shrimp dumplings, the duck and foie gras dumplings, the kimchee jeon and MoKo wings. At $3/piece, the shrimp dumplings, while deliciously moist and plump, were ridiculously expensive, in my opinion. The duck and foie gras dumplings (3 for $12) were also very good, with the duck flavor hitting first followed by a foie gras finish. The kimchee jeon was a Korean pancake with chopped kimchee mixed in, topped with a crispy slice of pork belly. I wish there had been a little more kick from the kimchee but overall this was good though a little problematic to eat with chopsticks. The MoKo wings had a nice spicy sauce to them but once I got past it, I thought the chicken wing to be a little bland and I wished it had been crispy like Korean-style fried chicken.
One thing that I noticed on the menu that made me guffaw was that they charged for “banchan” plates. The Korean in me just has to say no to this!
Overall, I thought the fusion food was pretty solid but the price tag was high enough to make me hesitate to return. If you really want Korean-style food, it seems financially smarter to drive a little further to K-town but you definitely won’t get the sophisticated ambiance of MoKo or the excellent service. I can’t shake the feeling that MoKo is trying to be more of a hip upscale hang-out to attract the Culver City night life than an actual restaurant…. While I’m not one to balk at expensive dining, I do expect a certain quality and quantity for said prices and in this case, the quantity aspect just wasn’t there for me. I left hungrier and poorer than I would have preferred.
I have to give MoKo 2 1/2 NOMs. If it wasn’t so pricey, I would have given it 3..
9540 Culver Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90232