One of the more inane ways to review an automobile is to lambaste the machine for something it was never designed to be. Carping about how a Lancer Evolution rides harshly, or has a budget interior is an example of this phenomenon. Tom McCahill wouldn't pull such shenanigans, and neither will we. With that bit of reflexivity out of the way, we'll now get into a Kia Rondo. We admit that we first liked the Rondo solely because of its racy if not somewhat humorous moniker. Almost instantly, and amid exclamations of space wagons, we thought anything named Rondo simply had to be good. As it turns out the spacey wagon is good. In order to reach this conclusion we tested Rondo by using it for its intended purpose of moving people around. To pay tribute to Rondo's country of manufacture, we rolled these same people to as many Los Angeles area Korean BBQ establishments we could get to inside of a week. Read on for driving and BBQ impressions.
Soot Bull Jeep
Our first stop brought us down into Koreatown. On board was our own Jonny Lieberman and neighbor Zak Hawthorne. We put Zak into the rear seat by virtue of his over six-foot tall stature. It was Zak that figured out the split rear seats not only were worthy of a space wagon, but also had their own adjustment tracks like the front seats. Bonus, Rondo! The Rondo handled the mean streets of downtown Los Angeles with no surprises, even during quasi-emergency maneuvers avoiding drivers performing random left and right darts. Once we actually found the legendary Soot Bull Jeep we waited merely a few minutes before being seated and ordering a full compliment of beefs, shrimps, and eels. Soot Bull Jeep features genuine wood charcoal smoking action underneath the in table grille, which imparts a lasting and tasty flavor into the meats. This same smoke also fills the restaurant. The various sides were an exploration into fantastic. We also learned that the razed lot across was once the Ambassador Hotel where Robert Kennedy was shot, and that the plate of leaf lettuce is supposed to be used to wrap around the tasty BBQ like a tortilla.
Soot Bull Jeep ****
3136 W 8th St
Los Angeles, CA 90005
Evening two involved a longer distance Rondo highway test and dual county navigation. First stop was out to Ventura County to collect Analog Assassins club president Billy Bautista. We then took the Ventura highway away from the sunshine, and thundered Rondo into the San Fernando Valley to scoop up one Dan Kahn. Finding a BBQ establishment was more improvisational time around. After driving around for a few minutes we lucked out in a mini-mall featuring not one but two joints. Billy remembered the mini-mall as where he used to come drift cars around the parking lot. His bud Herbert met us there. We chose the shinier looking place and lucked out after we sat down. 18 bucks each for all-u-can-eat BBQ and choice of two sushi rolls! You didn't have to ask us twice. Meats were limited to less exotic critters, as we would have otherwise shrimped the place out of evening profit. So endless was the supply that we experienced fiery grille problems. Our Rondo thirst for Soju was also endless, but fortunately we had a designated driver. In the end Billy B slapped his belly, proclaiming it was the best 18 bucks he had ever spent. Rondo transported everyone back home satisfied and without issue.
YooSung Garden ****
17623 Sherman Way
Van Nuys, CA 91406
Young Dong Garden
The Rondo BBQ tour ended with a daylight stop in Arcadia, California on our way back from the drag races. Before the third and final BBQ stop the Rondo went clear from Montrose to Fontucky and back, even experiencing some carpool lane action. After a day of California Speedway baking sun, nitromethane fumes, and good old tire smoke we were ready for some more savory BBQ goodness. There was no grille in the table at Young Dong, and unfortunately the food was not as impressive as the oddball Polynesian Swiss Chalet architecture of the former steakhouse. To be fair, it was hard to top the smoky goodness of Soot Bull Jeep, or the endless platter supply at YooSung Garden. Young Dong was more dish-based than family style, and the Bimbimbop and Spicy Chicken were tasty and plentiful. The various side dishes and kim chees were not as well thought out. By the end of the week Rondo had been to three restaurants, a drag race, three counties, and slaked our Rondo thirst.