There are many "Korean Barbecue" restaurants (grill in the midle of the table) in the Los Angeles area. They can be divided into a number of sub-specialties like real charcoal, pork, wagyu, ayce (all you can eat), ayce buffet, and so on. I've been to a couple of dozen different restaurants myself, which have ranged from excellent to mediocre in, respectively, cleanliness and food -- fwiw, the two do not seem to be connected.
Weekend lunch has pretty good service, IF you go when the doors open at 11:35am. The waitresses have yet to be burned out and annoyed by the hordes of people that come later in the day.
They normally have a stack of clean grills on bottom tier of their pushcart. Also, put all your dirty plates at the end of the table, this queue's them to come over which is also a good time to ask for a replacement grill.
I've been to a Korean BBQ in Korea town once. All my friends swore by it, and said we had to go together, etc... but I didn't like it. The meat was tough and chewy. We didn't cook anything, the waitresses come, light up the grill, put the meat on it and leave, then come back when it's ready, take it off the grill and put it on plates - if I remember correctly.
That's just one experience though, I'd be open to try again at another place.
Your first Korean barbecue experiences have a lot in common with your early forays to a dim sum or sushi place. It's very helpful to go with someone who knows what to order, not to order, to do, and what not to do.
The whole thing is supposed to very "interactive" between the diners, the grill, and the food. Not to mention the drinking.
Unfortunately, if you depend on the waitress to do all the on and off the grill stuff, your food will be tremendously overcooked. Part of the experience is hoping they at least show up with the scissors often enough that you're not trying to eat whole, smoking-hot, "baby" octopus with chopsticks -- and dealing with the resulting third-degree burns.
They're incredibly cute, but dont wait for them. Nearly everything should be removed from the grill when it's just barely cooked enough to be tender. The exceptions, things like thick slices of pork belly, are obvious. Some things, spicy baby octopus for instance, take some experience to get right. Undercooked is tough, overcooked is rubber, and you've only got a two or three minute window to get it right. Don't be intimidated.
If the gods intended you to wait for the waitress, they wouldn't have given you chopsticks.
There are so many barbecues in K-Town that you can choose from specialty restaurants -- depending on what you want to eat (pork for instance), how it's cooked (gas fire or charcoal), and whether you want AYCE (all you can eat) or normal menu. Most first-timer gabachos end up at Woo Lae Oak on Western. In terms of authenticity, quality, and what passes for tradition in Los Angeles, Woo Lae Oak is sort of the El Cholo of Korean barbecue. It isn't necesarily a bad thing, but there are much better. In fact, you've got a 99.44% chance of better food (but not as nice inside) by driving down Vermont and choosing randomly.
Not all, but most Korean barbecues are beef oriented to one degree or another; and take pride in offering very tender and very expensive cuts of beef like wagyuribeye. In fact, my wife ranks a meal at Tahoe Galbi (no longer as good as it was :cry as the best steak she ever had. If your beef was tough there was something wrong -- either the ordering, the cooking, or the restaurant itself.
Mine was a restaurant on Wilshire, somewhere between Western and Highland. The steak definitely wasn't rib-eye, wagyu or not, but rather some sort of tough cut (short ribs?). But it was a large party, I was a guest, and didn't have any role in the ordering.
Anyway thanks for the advice, next time I'll know better. I have some other friends who swear by Korean BBQ, maybe one day I'll follow them and try paying more attention to the ordering and the cooking.