LAReview

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Perilla image
8.4

Perilla

Korean

Chinatown

$$$$Perfect For:LunchVegetariansLiterally EveryoneSerious Take-Out OperationImpressing Out of Towners
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A long, leisurely lunch in the sunshine is sometimes crucial for maintaining your sanity. When it’s one of those days, our destination of choice is Perilla, an inventive banchan shop in an idyllic courtyard cluster on the border of Chinatown and Echo Park. A lot of that has to do with their convenient grab-and-go cold case, stocked with a rotating selection of Korean sides like sweet pepper muchim and marinated okra. But beyond that, Perilla is an excellent spot to spend a few hours picking at a spread of kimbap and dosirak on their huge (and leafy) garden patio.

This casual daytime cafe takes inspiration from owner-chef Jihee Kim’s hometown of Busan—where little banchan shops are a takeout staple. After cooking at Rustic Canyon, she began turning local produce into funky-fresh fermented dishes for her own banchan pop-up. Now Perilla lives in a 200-square-foot space that doubles as a neatly stocked mini-mart. But don’t let the color-coordinated yakju bottles and sauces on shelves fool you—what Perilla’s unassuming kitchen puts out is on par with the best Korean restaurants in LA. And the fact that you can eat it in a beautiful communal courtyard next to a banana tree is icing on the cake.

Perilla image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Perilla image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Perilla image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Perilla image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Perilla image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Perilla image
Perilla image
Perilla image
Perilla image
Perilla image

The banchan at Perilla is what Graceland is to Elvis fans—worthy of a special pilgrimage. The vegetable-dominated dishes aren't formally listed on the menu as they tend to vary from day to day, but a selection of a half-dozen or so containers is the first thing you’ll see when you step inside. And for good reason. The banchan here are executed with the obsessive perfectionism of a breakup text. So whether you’re granted collard green kimchi drizzled with sweet plum syrup, sprouting cauliflower tossed in sesame oil, or the creamy potato salad tinted with apples and fermented cucumber, it’ll probably be the highlight of your day.

Beyond banchan, Perilla dabbles in lunchboxes, rice combos, and noodle plates that you should order with the confidence of Taylor Swift watching the charts on New Music Friday. Their cod dosirak is the unmistakable headliner of this section, served perfectly charred and honey-glazed like a holiday dinner centerpiece. Though the gimbap is pretty special, too—each roll of dried seaweed is inch-perfect and skillfully packed with a balanced mix of creamy avocado chunks, crunchy pickled radishes, and marinated mushrooms.

Perilla might have the ease and efficiency of a takeout window, but a sit-down meal in the adjacent mini meadow transforms an otherwise quick lunch here into a substantial event (in other words, you’ll want to pull a Cranberries and linger in the garden). The fun, freewheeling menu would be stunning on its own, but the food becomes even more impressive in the context of the impromptu picnic happening daily on Perilla’s lush patio.

Food Rundown

Perilla image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Banchan Rice Combo

This sampler plate should be your go-to for a solo lunch. For $15, you get to try four of that day’s banchan (picked by the staff), served over warm rice dusted with seaweed powder. The staff do a great job of picking complimentary banchan, which makes the dish come together when you mix all the varied textures and flavors in the paper tray.
Perilla image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Gimbap

An unmissable snack. The assortment of eggs, pickles, and meticulously cut vegetables are tucked inside toasted nori to form a neat little mosaic. And while this rice roll is a crunchy marvel on its own, the tiny squeeze bottle of spicy mustard sauce on the side adds some much-needed heat.
Perilla image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Rolled Omelet

A visual masterpiece that tastes as slick as it looks. It’s a feat of science that this soft pinwheeled egg dish stays fluffy while the seaweed at the center retains its crunch. Don’t hesitate when you see this stocked in Perilla’s refrigerated case.
Perilla image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Spicy Beef Dupbap

Even though this entree has the word “spicy” in its name, the marinade has more of a sweet taste. It's delicious, but you can probably skip this one unless you’re in the mood for simple, nicely-charred beef over rice.
Perilla image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Cod Dosirak

While we like Perilla’s juicy marinated chicken dosirak, it’s the fish that steals our heart. We appreciate the smokiness of the two big chunks of grilled cod, and how the tender fish mixes with the soft-crunchy banchan beneath. If you’re looking for a strategic lunch order, this is also one of the more filling dishes.
Perilla image

photo credit: Jessie Clapp

Avocado & Mentaiko Rice

Do not, under any circumstances, skip this dish: it represents all that we love about this place. Between the bright pearls of trout roe, creamy avocado, and drizzle of rich mentaiko sauce on top, it looks a side dish you'd get from an over-the-top sushi roll spot. The briny roe against the buttery-cool avocado works through, and the combination of flavors is elegant, but also goes off like a bomb in your mouth.

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FOOD RUNDOWN

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