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Best Korean BBQ in Boston area?

redbull Jul 8, 2009 07:06 AM

I am trying to locate the best place for Korean BBQ in the Boston area. Is it Koreana (Cambridge), Yasu (Brookline), Chung Ki Wa (Medford) or New Jang Su (Burlington)? Maybe some place else? I want a place where they let you cook the BBQ on the table. I only tried Koreana it was good but not super good.

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  1. c
    CambridgeFoodie RE: redbull Jul 8, 2009 07:17 AM

    I'd advise finding a new cuisine. IMHO, Korean in the Boston area is subpar.

    1. justbeingpolite RE: redbull Jul 8, 2009 07:18 AM

      CH favorite seems to be New Jan Su in Burlington. If you're willing to drive, Woo Jung Restaurant in Ayers is also reputed to be very, very good.

      1 Reply
      1. re: justbeingpolite
        junior coyote RE: justbeingpolite Jul 8, 2009 12:22 PM

        Woo Jung is good and they have BBQ, but not on the table.

      2. z
        Zatan RE: redbull Jul 8, 2009 12:33 PM

        Yasu has bbq at the table, but though I've been a couple of times hoping it would be good, it's just not that great. Still, if you're craving that and in this area....

        Koreana anyway is better than Yasu.

        I thought I saw bbq at table at Korean Garden in Allston but don't know anything about it except a friend recommended it for the panchan, saying they had a larger and better selection than is typical.

        2 Replies
        1. re: Zatan
          joebloe RE: Zatan Jul 8, 2009 01:01 PM

          I've asked A LOT of Koreans here where they eat and they all said to go to NYC/Flushing. They said "the food they serve here is not even korean" whatever that means to you. The joy of Korean food is all the interesting side dishes they bring out for sampling but that's really pathetic here in Boston. Are there place that use real charcoal instead of gas for the bbq?

          1. re: Zatan
            seoulgal617 RE: Zatan Jul 9, 2009 09:14 AM

            I found Yasu is the best place for on-the-table BBQ in the Boston area. Koreana was so-so. Yasu gives big portions and has a nice variety. Also the service may be subpar, but hey a lot of Korean establishments are (I'm Korean!), but if you ask for anything they will definitely come to your beck and call. The bbq platter for 2 was definitely enough to feed more than 2 hungry carnivores.

            And no, this is not LA or NY (or Seoul), but that was not the question, right??

          2. MC Slim JB RE: redbull Jul 8, 2009 01:27 PM

            Yes, Boston is not L.A. And yet, for all the alleged awfulness of Korean food here, I still see a lot of Korean-Americans and Korean ex-pats in the restaurants when I go out. Presumably not everyone has the time or wherewithal to go to Flushing for dinner, or is so appalled that they just stay home. Tried the gamjatang at Hanmaru? I always seem to be the only non-Korean in the joint when I go there.

            Further, the OP didn't ask for awesomely authentic, just the best of what's available here. Of the bunch redbull cited, I'd lean toward New Jang Su, but I haven't been to Chung Ki Wa yet (shamefully). If I were bringing first-timers, I'd probably hit Koreana, which has the nicest atmosphere, a pretty broad menu beyond BBQ, lots of grill tables, a full bar, and a big TV with the Sox usually on (though the bulgoki is weak). I'd also add the Apollo Grill to this list, conveniently open late in Chinatown.


            11 Replies
            1. re: MC Slim JB
              CambridgeFoodie RE: MC Slim JB Jul 8, 2009 02:13 PM

              MC, sadly the level of Korean food in Boston is at best a C+. The number of panjan side dishes served in Boston restaurants is abhorrible and the basics of Kalbi and bulgogi is passable.

              Sadly, in terms of Korean, I have opted to stay at home and make Kalbi and skip the panjan. Then go hog wild at Soot Bull Jeep in Los Angeles.

              1. re: CambridgeFoodie
                MC Slim JB RE: CambridgeFoodie Jul 8, 2009 02:23 PM

                I guess what I'm chafing at are suggestions like, "It all sucks; you're better off staying home."

                I've spent some time in South Korea and more in L.A., and agree our Korean restaurants aren't up at that level, but isn't that kind of obvious, and true about any local restaurant culture that has more natives or hyphenates to support it than Boston? Sure, the bistecca Fiorentina is better in Tuscany, but most Hounds are looking for advice that will help them here.

                There have to be some good things to point out about our Korean restaurants to folks who don't cook Korean at home (that's one cuisine I've never attempted in my own kitchen). If you think it's grim here, be grateful you don't live in the 90% of America that has virtually zero Korean options. I have no Korean ancestry, which is maybe why I don't see it as that terrible, think it's pretty good, actually, and manage to have a great time with the cuisine here.


                1. re: MC Slim JB
                  CambridgeFoodie RE: MC Slim JB Jul 8, 2009 02:35 PM

                  fair point. I guess that my response relays my deep dissatisfaction in the level of Korean food in Boston (a pretty good food city)...as i absolutely love Korean food!

                  1. re: MC Slim JB
                    Canadian Tuxedo RE: MC Slim JB Jul 8, 2009 03:54 PM

                    Well said, MC. I am no Korean food expert (or any type of food expert--though I do enjoy trips to Koreana as well as options in Allston and Union Sq), but am equally tired of hearing that Korean, sushi, Mexican, etc. in Boston isn't nearly as good as NYC, LA, ____ (fill in the blank). And these comments come from friends of mine, never mind those found on this board.

                    The point isn't comparing options here to other cities (especially when people tend to forget how small Boston really is in comparison to LA or NYC or Chicago or ...), but what are good choices out of what is available in the area.

                    Though when I hit the big time and can afford my own private jet, then I will worry about what cuisine is best in what city...

                    1. re: MC Slim JB
                      nfo RE: MC Slim JB Jul 8, 2009 06:50 PM

                      Recently went to Chung Ki Wa for the first time. It was okay, not great. The panchan selection was small and not automatically refilled, but they tasted good. For BBQ items, the sauces were too sweet, portions not that big. The kimchi chigae was far too salty. There were Korean people at the restaurant, and I questioned their taste.

                      I have no Korean ancestry, have eaten a fair amount of Korean food, but don't consider myself an expert. I believe that for most people, the Korean food around here is not worth your time or money.

                      1. re: MC Slim JB
                        lipoff RE: MC Slim JB Jul 13, 2009 05:04 PM

                        I agree completely MC Slim. I love Korean food also, and while I also wish there was better Korean food around here, I would say that we have a number of pretty good options, even if none is truly great.

                        First, Koreana is a good suggestion. They have a broad menu, very nice service, and some excellent kalbi, if disappointing u sel (beef tongue) and bulgogi. They make an excellent kimchi jon (kimchi pancake). For a large party they seem to bring out a very large number of panchan. Some Korean friends really swear by their big beef dumplings soup (for two). The best part about Koreana is the excellent soo jung gwa (persimmon punch) brought at the end of the meal.

                        Wu Chon House in Union Square has excellent quality beef, and terrific variety in the panchan --- probably the broadest variety of panchan I've seen around here. I also particularly like their duk buk gi (spicy rice sticks) although their soups and pajon are a bit subpar. Korenas friends of mine have really enjoyed the gul bo ssam there (oysters and pork belly).

                        Buk Kyung in Union Square is a humble place that serves excellent Chinese-Korean (or is it Korean-Chinese?) food. I wouldn't go there for the meats, per se, but rather the noodles. I find this location much better than Buk Kyung II in Allston.

                        Chung Ki Wa is also very good, and while I like to go there for variety, I don't really see it being a notch about Wu Chon. So I'd recommend going there for sure, but I wouldn't make a special trip just to there if there are some other places that are more convenient first. They do have a nice yogurt drink to finish the meal, and I really enjoyed the chapjae there in particular.

                        I sadly have not yet made it out to New Jang Su.

                        If you need Korean BBQ late at night (but not too late) I'd prefer Kaya in north Cambridge to Apollo, although both places are not worth going to while others are open.

                        For pure BBQ, I'd recommend Wu Chon House most of all.

                        Of all the Korean stores in the Boston area, I'd recommend most the J & K Han A Rum Oriental Market in North Cambridge. That's a great place to buy various Korean prepared foods in the refrigerated case at the very rear of the store.

                        1. re: lipoff
                          yumyum RE: lipoff Jul 14, 2009 10:28 AM

                          I wouldn't make a special trip to New Jang Su.

                    2. re: MC Slim JB
                      robertlf RE: MC Slim JB Jul 8, 2009 03:25 PM

                      Ditto. I recommend Koreana and still haven't been to Chung Ki Wa. I would stay clear of Woo Jung in Ayer. I've eaten there several times (keep forgetting how mediocre it is). Their beef dumplings are good though. Worst atmosphere ever. I also heard from a Korean chef friend that Flushing Meadows NY is best. Recently, I tried Woo Lae Oak in SOHO NYC. Best Korean BBQ I've ever had and that includes the WLO in Beverly Hills and Virginia.

                      1. re: robertlf
                        hargau RE: robertlf Jul 8, 2009 03:30 PM

                        I frequent Woo Jung and find it much better then the place in Burlington. Many of the dishes are not so great but the Beef, Short Ribs and kim chi are all excellent. The Scallion and kin chi pancakes are the best i have had anywhere. I always stick to those items. Some of the homemade thick noodle soups are good too.

                      2. re: MC Slim JB
                        Nab RE: MC Slim JB Jul 13, 2009 05:44 PM

                        Slim, I think you've now mentioned the gamjatang on a coupla occasions, and I'm not sure why I hadn't cornered you on it the first go around (it's a favourite dish of mine). Spill the perilla seeds, and share a few details will ya ?

                        1. re: Nab
                          MC Slim JB RE: Nab Jul 13, 2009 07:26 PM

                          My best summary here: http://thephoenix.com/Boston/Food/797... , which itself references an award I gave Hanmaru's gamjatang in last year's Stuff dining awards.


                      3. z
                        Zatan RE: redbull Jul 8, 2009 07:48 PM

                        For some it is simply a question of what's available locally. For others, well, can dream about what they had in NYC or LA. If I want Korean I will go to one of the places here, and, usually joined by many local Korean expats or the like, will enjoy as best I can. Truth be told, it's not so bad, I have really relished meals at Koreana, Buk Kyung, Yasu....and I have never been to Korea so cannot judge well on quality, but my meals here tasted fine if not great. I have also had meals in NYC and LA and SF, and, again, truth be told, they seemed better, in some cases (BBQ) far superior. But I am here so will make due with what's here and so if we are talking about Boston let's see what's the best we can get.

                        Eventually, I would think, pressure from the obviously large group of Korean expats and students (and Chowhounders) here will drive the quality up, lucky us. Take a trip to some towns outside of the major coastal cities and then you will be thankful.

                        Just see what's happened with any and all other ethnic cuisines that have some following, either through simple appreciation or through a local populace that desires something from "home". The change in Boston over the past decade is amazing, and I imagine it will continue along the same path....hope to smell the smoke from a charcoal brazier and some grilling beef coming from a Korean BBQ place soon!

                        1. n
                          nasilemak RE: redbull Jul 9, 2009 11:55 AM

                          Woo Chun in Union Square is the best by far.

                          7 Replies
                          1. re: nasilemak
                            justbeingpolite RE: nasilemak Jul 9, 2009 12:03 PM

                            "hands down"? :)

                            1. re: nasilemak
                              yumyum RE: nasilemak Jul 9, 2009 12:29 PM

                              That's Wuchon House and I agree.

                              I still want to try the Korean Fried Chicken at Bon Chon. Hounds I trust recommend it highly.

                              Edit: and now I've read the actual request I must add Wuchon is great but no BBQ tables.

                              1. re: yumyum
                                hargau RE: yumyum Jul 9, 2009 04:28 PM

                                Last time i was at Wuchon they had electric ones that they set up for you on your table.

                                1. re: hargau
                                  joebloe RE: hargau Jul 9, 2009 07:37 PM

                                  Any place with charcoal grill instead of gas?

                                  1. re: joebloe
                                    Prav RE: joebloe Jul 11, 2009 10:00 AM

                                    Would a restaurant be permitted to have an indoor charcoal grill?

                                    1. re: Prav
                                      another_adam RE: Prav Jul 11, 2009 10:29 AM

                                      Not sure about in MA- there are definitely charcoal barbecue joints in CA, though they're not incredibly common. (I imagine that it creates a huge amount of overhead in operations-- and they don't have universal appeal, since alongside the draw of potentially greater tastiness, a fair number of people are turned away by the fact that you come out smelling rather smoky)

                                      1. re: Prav
                                        MC Slim JB RE: Prav Jul 13, 2009 04:56 PM

                                        I'll speculate that it's doable with proper ventilation, a super-suck hood. For instance, Santarpio's is grilling its skewers (lamb and housemade sausage, more interesting than the pizza, in my book) indoors on a charcoal grill, but given it was founded about 75 years ago, it may have been grandfathered in.


                              2. r
                                redbull RE: redbull Jul 13, 2009 04:37 PM

                                Dear Chowhounds thank you! We tried Yasu as it was the most convenient. We had two orders of combo 1 it was definitely good (Yes not as good as NY). The service was very friendly and the anchovies in the panchan where excellent. I would rate it better than Koreana and Korean Garden. Next on my list to try sometime is New Jang Su and Woo Jung.

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