Barbecue, Far Eastern-Style
The Cuisine: Korean
The Place: Korean Restaurant
From Brazil and South Africa to Lexington and Kansas City, every culture has its own time-honored barbecue tradition. Korea is no exception. Whether boneless (bulgogi) or bone-in (kalbi) these sweet, marinated beef ribs will satisfy carnivores of every nation.
The waitress assured me that "Korean Restaurant" is the full name of the establishment, but I can't help wondering what the Korean characters on the sign outside mean. In much the same way, I felt that our experience here as Westerners, while rich and rewarding, was somewhat limited.
Still, the illustrated English-language menu has plenty to offer. Start with steamed shrimp dumplings and the pizza-shaped seafood pancake. Silken tofu soup has a texture similar to egg drop soup, but chili powder gives it more kick. Only the mackerel disappoints, so bony as to be almost inedible.
Bulgogi remains an excellent choice for first-time visitors—perfectly tender, faintly sweet, and served with scallions, sesame seeds, and onions. Bi bim bap consists of beef, oyster mushrooms, bean sprouts, greens, and fried eggs served over rice in a hot stone bowl. You mix everything together with a chamomile-flavored red sauce just before eating. The ingredients continue to cook in the bowl, creating a pleasantly crispy rice crust.
Ban chan, side dishes served alongside the main entrées, show the same flair for presentation. Several side dishes were seasoned with chili, but none would qualify as hot. We sampled kimchi (pickled fermented cabbage), pickled carrots, radishes, and zucchini, two kinds of bean sprouts, and a potato salad containing apple and citrus.
The interior is plainly furnished with red vinyl tabletops and chairs. The waitress told us to come back in a few months after they add built-in barbecue tables where guests can grill their own meat. It's an intriguing concept, but I am not sure I'll be able to wait that long.
6404 Albermarle Rd.