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Master Ha

  • Restaurants
  • Mid City
  • price 3 of 4
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. Master Ha's soy marinated crab
    Photograph: Courtesy Jesse HsuGanjang gejang
  2. Master Ha table spread
    Photograph: Courtesy Jesse HsuLive uni, salmon rice bowl, special boiled beef and medium size marinated crab
  3. Live uni at Master Ha
    Photograph: Courtesy Jesse HsuLive uni
  4. Special boiled beef at Master Ha
    Photograph: Courtesy Jesse HsuSpecial boiled beef
  5. Abalone at Master Ha
    Photograph: Courtesy Jesse HsuAbalone
  6. Master Ha dining room
    Photograph: Courtesy Jesse HsuDining room
  7. Master Ha outdoor dining area
    Photograph: Courtesy Jesse HsuParking lot patio

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Delicious soy-marinated raw crab—plus live uni, rice bowls and beef soup—make for an excellent seafood dinner in Koreatown.

In the last year or so, ganjang gejang has been having a bit of a moment on TikTok. Featured in mukbangs, home cooking tutorials and restaurant recap videos, users have leaned into the multi-sensory appeal of the Korean marinated raw crab dish: Cracking open the shell, squeezing the body with gloved hands and capturing how the soft flesh pops out on camera. (I’ll leave any metaphorical comparisons to your imagination.) Here in L.A., that culinary obsession extends to Koreatown seafood specialists like Rich Crab, Crab House and my favorite, Master Ha, a polished strip mall spot on Western Avenue serving two versions of ganjang gejang with an element of hanjeongsik—a traditional Korean tablescape of rice, soup, side dishes and mains that makes any meal feel downright opulent.

For the very best soy-marinated crab, I still prefer the much-heralded Soban, but Master Ha's version is a close second. The marinade runs a touch sweet for my liking—over a meal, it can grow almost cloying—and unlike others I don’t enjoy making handrolls with the gim (dried seaweed) that accompany every order. The restaurant compensates for any minor differences in quality with optionality and presentation; instead of whole crabs, diners can spring for the marinated crab rice bowl, which comes with sides of soy-marinated egg and shrimp, plus bright yellow pickled radish and red ginger. The rice arrives topped with shredded seaweed, microgreens and a single raw quail egg, which adds a silky texture to each bite. Alternatively, starting at $80 (for a portion that lightly feeds two), you can order whole uncracked crabs, which I prefer. The all-female crabs contain sweet orange roe, sit in a pool of dipping sauce, and come topped with jalapenos, onion and a sprinkling of salmon eggs. 

Either way, the meat is sweet and tender; absent is the fishy, almost rotten odor emanating from inferior versions of the dish I’ve tried elsewhere in Koreatown. The kitchen takes obvious care with every item on the small menu, and unlike other nearby raw crab specialists, Master Ha’s isn’t a one-trick pony. Presented with much flourish, there’s live sea urchin, which comes with sesame seeds, two kinds of roe and a quail egg. A Wagyu beef rice bowl combo as well as tasty raw salmon paired with pickle-seasoned rice would placate any dining companions squeamish about raw crab or uni. Generously portioned hand rolls come with baby octopus, oyster and spicy pollack roe, among other redundant fillings, and you can even order steamed abalone. Edible gold and silver grace the bouncy mollusk, a prized delicacy across much of East and Southeast Asia.

Surprisingly, Master Ha offers a separate, equally worthy section of beef-based soups and an above-average L.A.-style galbi (barbecued short rib). The milky-hued sul lung tang here (listed as “ox bone soup” or “oxtail soup”) is no match for Koreatown classic Han Bat Sul Lung Tang, but the galbi tang (“beef short rib soup”) is just as good, if not better, than the version at Sun Nong Dan, the neighborhood’s resident king of all things beefy and braised. For colder days, the “special boiled beef” makes for an excellent hot pot; a mountain of chives obscures a shallow pan of brisket slices and milky broth, seasoned to your liking with salt and pepper. The beef soups might be beside the point for first-timers, but when you return (as you invariably will), these beef items are waiting, patiently, for their time in the sun.

Perhaps the two biggest drawbacks of dining at Master Ha are the lack of alcohol and the uncertain wait; the restaurant doesn’t take reservations, and diners, especially those in larger parties, can wait an hour or more on the weekends. Weekdays, naturally, are far less busy. Drinks are limited to canned sodas and other nonalcoholic drinks, plus complimentary barley tea in lieu of water. If you happen to face a long delay, El Cholo is right next door for a quick margarita or two, at least before 9pm; Master Ha closes at a relatively late 11pm. To minimize downtime, arrive on the earlier side, or opt for the tented parking lot patio, which people tend to spurn in favor of the air-conditioned dining room. The premium pricing might also be a turnoff, but when it comes to raw seafood, it’s safe to say you should splurge. 

The vibe: Sleek but casual. Service is typically brisk and efficient but not hurried.
The food: Soy-marinated raw crab, plus other raw seafood dishes, plus a delicious “special boiled beef,” short rib soup and barbecued short ribs.
The drink: Complimentary barley tea, plus a selection of American and South Korean soft drinks, juices, teas and coffees.
Time Out tip: Come with a group of four or more—you’re more likely to get a table that isn’t wedged in the corner.

Patricia Kelly Yeo
Written by
Patricia Kelly Yeo


1147 S Western Ave
Los Angeles
Opening hours:
Mon–Fri 5–11pm; Sat 11am–11pm
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