Grilling it Up at Kang Ho-dong Baekjeong

By: Brandon Le

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Although I've visited great Korean barbecue in Southern California region, not one restaurant beats the luxurious Kang Ho-dong Baekjeong in Irvine, CA. On January 21, 2018, my friends and I visited the famous restaurant to have a taste of the hype, and we were not disappointed. The menu offers a range of stews, noodles, bentos, lunch sets, pork, beef, and meals. While each item seemed to reside on the more pricey side of Korean barbecue -  the menu was not All You Can Eat - the flavor and experience justified the grand total. 

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Walking into the restaurant, I was greeted with bright light bulbs hanging from the ceiling in rows, illuminating the food and the customers. Thin, silver range hoods hovered over the food, capturing the smoke emitted from the sizzling meat on grids of metal. As the server accompanied my group to out table, I noticed the cooking tray was surrounded by a three compartments containing sides - raw beaten egg, melting corn cheese, and vegetables. The table was filled with banchan -  small Korean side dishes, often featuring pickled vegetables, rice, and seaweed. my stomach roared juster by seeing the sides, and I hadn't even thought of the main course. 

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The waiter came to take our order, and my friends chose to buy thinly slicked brisket and sliced rib eye. After ten minutes, although it felt like hours, I drooled for the vibrant red briskets that was presented to the group in a wooden plate. The rolled sensations sung while steam hissed as it kissed the hot stove. I couldn't wait until it finished cooking, and , luckily, it only took a couple of seconds. I put the steaming hot meat in a bundle of rice paper, and salivated for its buttery, crispy meatiness. Just as I had finished, I marveled at the next plate of meat: the rib eye. I had never eaten a cut of steak at Korean barbecue, and I couldn't wait to try it out. The cut had been presented unseasoned, although the white marbling on the rosy surface indicated a tender bite. when we thought the meat had overcooked, the server cut cubes out of the meat, only to reveal the medium rare, juicy morsels that the group demolished within minutes.

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The compartments that hugged the circumference of the stove included a large portion of beaten egg, cheesy corn, and vegetables. While the vegetables are self-explanatory and I had not had a single bite of it, the eggs had slowly cooked as the group dove into the meat, and it still had gooey portions. The slightly undercooked eggs were silky, rich, and buttery, and I was glad it took up half of the ring. The American cheese, monterey jack, and mozzarella intermingling with the corn melted into a sweet, buttery concoction that I could no longer resist.

By the end of our dinner, I was completely satisfied with the food, the price, and the experience. A small, rounded table brought together a social aspect as the entire group was able to contribute to both cooking and picking out the food they ate. The meat was of the highest quality, and the price covers it. A roughly $70, the group had had our fill and we left the restaurant with a smile on our faces, and later succumbed to food coma.

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