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Sep 14, 2006 09:30 AM

Dinner at Lee's BBQ, Oakland

The Korean restaurants lining Telegraph Avenue in Oakland are oft recommended for late dining. Showing up before 6pm felt weird to me, but we did just that on tuesday night and were greeted warmly by the two female staff.

We ordered three dishes, and the food soon started to flow fast and furious. First of the included starters was the chewy vegetable pancake. A glimpse of a section of it flying by after a dip in the soy-vinegar sauce can be seen in the lower quadrant of the image linked below. Then we enjoyed the seaweed soup, savory and thick with kelp. The line-up of panchan included marinated broccoli florets, napa kimchi, slivered fish cake*, tiny fried fish and fresh jalapeño chilis, zucchini kimchi, shredded potato*, sesame-scented bean sprouts, and seaweed salad*. While none were that unique, they were very fresh and nicely balanced (* were favorites), and were not as salty nor garlicky letting the natural flavor shine through.

The spicy barbecued chicken topped with a sprinkle of white sesame seeds and chopped scallions was as good as crimson promised. Tender chunks of boneless dark meat were juicy and only mildly hot with smoky highlights. I liked that the sticky saucing was not candy-sweet.

The dried seaweed-topped seafood dol sot bibimbap crackled and hissed in its blazing hot stonepot. We were rewarded with a golden brown, crackly rice crust. While the rice was absolutely perfect, the seafood (shrimp, squid, green-lipped mussel) was dryish and marred by some bitter zucchini. I think I'd get a non-seafood version next time.

The sauteed fresh bacon with vegetables in spicy sauce was quite good too. This turned out to be low on vegetables (fresh mushrooms, onions and carrots) and heavy on bacon . . . not that we're complaining. The sprigs of cilantro and slices of fresh jalapeño were a nice touch, lifting the otherwise very heavy dish with their fragrance. This was medium-spicy despite the fresh chilis with most of the seasoning coming from the red pepper paste. I would have liked some garlic zip in there, but Francesc disagreed with me. The puddle of melted lard on the sizzling iron platter might dissuade some but don't miss trying this sometime with some plain steamed rice.

Dessert was some sweet rice water with pinenuts. The tab was quite reasonable, $46 including two Hite beers, tax and tip, and we had ordered enough to feed another person easily.

My overall impression is that this is a solid place and value-priced. The room is simple but light and well-kept. I'd love to hear other recs for favorite dishes here, e.g., has anyone tried Lee's version of black goat stew?

Lee's BBQ dinner photos -

Lee's BBQ
3838 Telegraph Ave. (opposite Macarthur BART parking lot

Lee's BBQ vs. Ohgane inquiry -

Crimson's original post on the lunch special -

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  1. Thanks for the report. Do you know if they're open for lunch?

    4 Replies
    1. re: Cindy

      Answered my own question by calling. Yes, they're open for lunch. :)

      1. re: Cindy

        Did you try it today?

        For anyone who's interested, the East Bay chowdown group is talking about a Korean series. Click here to join the group -

        1. re: Melanie Wong

          We did. Now, I don't know how much weight my review will hold, since I actually like Jong Ga (we stopped going there since they got a new waitress - not as nice a lady as the former one, and we don't get as much panchan).

          The lady who served us was nice and friendly as could be. I order #1 lunch special (short ribs). Plenty of meat, sauce was good. My co-worker ordered the spicy chicken lunch special - she finished it all, so it must have been good.

          We had the pancake - a little oily to my taste. I told my co-worker that I thought the heat wasn't high enough when they fried it. Soup was good, lots of seaweed. We got 6 panchan - bean sprouts, slivered zucchini, kim chee, the fish cakes, slivered potatoes, and 2 larges pieces of zucchini in what looked to be spicy red sauce.

          I didn't care much for the hot tea, but due to the cold weather I didn't order my usual diet coke.

          Not super cheap, about what we usually pay for lunch - $22 for both of us, including tax & tip. It's nice just to go somewhere different, thanks for the initial post.

          1. re: Cindy

            With those signs on the wall touting the spare ribs, I've been wondering if that was the thing to order here.

    2. I liked it, and the meat certainly seems to be the way to go. I've only been for lunch, and was the only gringo there. It was a bit disappointing to see their main "special" was basically a Japanese bento, but a lot of people ordered it, soo...