Restaurant Review: Ham Ji Park

Maggie Liu, Asst. A&E Editor

Ham Ji Park, a small barbecue dining chain that specializes in pork ribs and heartwarming stews, recently opened its fourth restaurant among the multitude of Korean restaurants in Rowland Heights. Encouraged by over a thousand Yelp reviews and recommendations from friends, I decided to dine at their new location with three other family members.

When visiting, I noticed that the restaurant has a clean and welcoming exterior design that drew me in. The front of the building is completely glass, so the hanging lights inside can be clearly seen from far away, creating a refreshing contrast to its dark and dingy neighbors in the same plaza.

The interior of Ham Ji Park is divided into two sections: grill tables, which allow customers to cook raw meat, and regular tables. In order to taste their famous ribs, I chose to sit at a normal table.

Ham Ji Park’s non-barbeque menu features items such as pork neck stew, kimchi fried rice, pan broiled octopus and their popular pork spare ribs.

After hearing about the store’s famous ribs for months, I ordered their specialty, pork spare ribs, for $17.99. I also ordered the $10.99 fermented soybean soup and the $20.99 stir-fried tripe and intestine.

In the fashion of most Korean-style restaurants, side dishes were served shortly after ordering our meal. The store offered seven side dishes that varied from fish cakes to pickled radishes. Despite the variety, the sides were mediocre and too oily to enjoy.

The spare ribs were served first, lying on top a generous layer of sliced onions and topped with chopped scallions. The most obvious aspect of the ribs were the beautifully charred edges, with each piece well caramelized in a glistening thick sauce. The perfectly cooked meat was well balanced by the crunchy edges. The only problem was that the dish was overly sweet and it felt like I was eating candied meat. Despite the sweetness, the spare ribs still lived up to the hype.

The next dish I tasted was the fermented soybean stew. When I first tried to order this item, the waiter warned me of its extreme odor and taste, but after much reassurance and persuasion on my part, the waiter placed my order. When the soup was placed on my table, I suddenly understood why the waiter had advised against it. The stew contains an overwhelming smell and taste of Japanese natto, traditional fermented soybeans. The soup also had a lumpy texture of beans and beef. Other than the odd texture however, the stew is an explosion of flavor that is great for any fans of natto.

The stir-fried tripe and intestine took the longest to be prepared, with us waiting about 30 minutes the dish to be served. The stir-fry was tossed together on a huge plate and looked intimidatingly red. The chewy and glutinous tripe,offset by the buttery intestines, made the dish well balanced in texture. The blend of animal innards helped to create an interesting combination of flavors as well— the intestines were nutty and gamey while the tripe was lighter in flavor.

I was impressed by the selection Ham Ji Park offers. The delicious and well prepared meat served are of amazing quality for the price, which for four people, came out to be around $80.

Ham Ji Park has a well-rounded menu that will satisfy any Korean food craving. The welcoming atmosphere and great quality in meat will definitely keep me coming back for more.