Oyabun is a nightmare for the chronically indecisive. This upscale Japanese-Korean seafood spot has more menus than it probably should, which in turn can make ordering complicated. But if you do a little research (or ask the right questions), you'll be rewarded with one of the best seafood experiences in Koreatown, complete with high-quality sashimi, silky soy-marinated crab, and fish roe in every color of the rainbow.
Not everything on Oyabun's menus is a hit, though, so we strongly encouraged having a game plan to get the most out of this place.
Oyabun takes up the bottom floor of a fairly generic apartment complex, which explains its unusual layout. It's a sparse concrete space with tables divided by wooden barriers and private rooms in the back that look like corporate conference rooms. The few stimulating things in this lobby-turned-seafood-paradise include LED fish tanks and a Top 40 soundtrack featuring every hit from the past two decades. Oyabun doesn't offer the electric party atmosphere you'd find at some other Ktown restaurants, but it's still a nicer-than-usual option to kick off a big night out.
As far as the menu, we've seen SAT questions that are less complicated. You can try to wrap your head around the long list of a la carte options or opt for the four-course prix-fixe meal, splurge on the omakase, or go for the AYCE marinated crab feast. This bombardment of options means your final bill can have more range than Whitney's vocals in the early '90s. Case in point: you can split a few $8 sushi rolls or ball out on a $369 per person "live seafood experience" flown in fresh from Jeju Island.
This seemingly endless array of possibilities makes a meal at Oyabun kind of exciting, as long as you pass on the fairly standard fusion-y sushi rolls and bland carpaccios. If you want to see the kitchen flex its strongest muscles, stick to the sashimi and other traditional Korean seafood dishes, including a gorgeous hwe dup bap bowl with enough fresh fish to flatter an emperor. And if piecing together this meal still feels daunting, the warm staff will happily steer you in the right direction—Oyabun's hits are too good to risk missing.
Live Halibut Carpaccio
We must be paying for this halibut's airfare because, otherwise, it's hard to figure out why this platter of imported fish costs nearly $40. The paper-thin halibut is delicate with a really clean, fresh flavor, but you only get a few slices topped with a drizzle of olive oil that doesn't add much.
Ditch the carpaccio and redirect those funds to the sashimi instead. Every cut on this platter is buttery deliciousness. Highlights include the sweet red snapper, marbled cuts of toro, and unagi that's so tender it melts like warm butter.
Sushi rolls are like fancy cakes: no matter how many decorations you put on top, it won't change what's inside. Not only is the pile of stuff atop this roll hilariously excessive, it doesn't hide the mess of muddled flavors going on underneath: a bland spicy tuna roll with layers of avocado, cold tomato chunks, salmon, and more crispy onions than a Midwestern casserole.
Chirashi Sushi Bowl
This chirashi bowl (also known as hwe dup bap in Korean) has three times as much glistening raw fish as rice, which is our ideal ratio. It also costs you less than $60, making it cheap for chirashi and enough of an excuse to come here. Every slice here is all killer, no filler, including delicate sweet shrimps, tender octopus, and thick slices of toro that go great with the pickled vegetables on the side.
Live Sea Urchin Roe Rice
Some things are too pretty to eat but don't hesitate to demolish this beautiful, uber-indulgent version of Korean al-bap. You can taste how clean and fresh the sweet uni is, and the pickled vegetables and salty roe make this fragrant dish pop.
Korean soy-marinated crab is a messy dish to eat and probably one of the worst foods for a first date. It's a perfect food in any other scenario, though, and the version at Oyabun is exceptional. The salty soy sauce penetrates the raw meat to balance out its ocean-y intensity, and the side of hot rice helps soak all the funky tomalley (delicious crab guts).