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Oct 6, 2009 10:32 AM

First Timer --Korean BBQ.. suggestions?

Going out to dinner tonight and want to try something different. I've never had Korean BBQ before but I love the idea of cooking your own food . Where should I go and what should I order?

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  1. Try bulgogi (marinated beef) on the bbq. For restaurants, Kunjip (very crowded and busy) is a good choice, as is Mandangsui (slightly more expensive but less crowded.)

    Also, they cook your food for you, turning it over, etc. You don't get to cook it yourself.

    1. First off, you need to order at least two orders of BBQ for them to set up the table grill. If you don't have at least two orders, they will cook it for you in the kitchen and bring it out.

      Bulgogi is what most people think of when they hear of Korean BBQ. But for me, it is kalbi (short ribs) all the way. To me, the meat is a lot tastier than bulgogi. And bulgogi is sliced very thin and has a tendency to overcook. Windycity is correct in that the waitstaff turns the meat for you. But I prefer my meat a bit rarer than most Koreans like to cook it. So I'll take it off and turn it when I want to. You can call me a control freak, but I prefer my meat on the rarer side. Accompanying your BBQ will be some lettuce and ssam-jang (a sauce made out of fermented soy bean paste). What you're supposed to do is place some rice, grilled meat and a bit of ssam jang in the lettuce, roll it up and pop the entire thing in your mouth at once -- not an easy feat if you have a small mouth.

      In K-town, my pick would be Madangsui. They offer both plain and marinated kalbi. While I like the plain, I think a first-timer should order the marinated one. The banchan is a cut above other places in K-town. The only issue I have with that place is that the grills are gas. If you want to grill your meat over coals, Won Jo and NY Komtang have coal grills. Lau has recently posted about good BBQ at Don Bogam. Their decor is nicer than other restaurants in K-town. So if that's a prerequisite in your BBQ search, I'd probably opt for that one.

      Here's a recent thread on Korean BBQ.

      5 Replies
      1. re: Miss Needle

        Here's a Chow Digest summary of Lau's comments from Don's Bogam. I walk by often but haven't been in. Sounds great - and I'm also curious about the wine bar angle, if anyone's gone that route ...

        Don's Bogam
        17 E 32nd St, New York, NY 10016

        1. re: squid kun

          i agree w/ Miss Needle...I do not think you should order bulgogi, i think you should order kalbi and sam gyup sal

          i've never understood why people ordered bulgogi at bbq restaurants, i feel like its something you just make at home...bulgogi does have a tendency to overcook and i think kalbi is just much better tasting in general.

          I'd go to either Don Bogam or Madangsui as the Miss Needle and Squid Kun recomended, either one will be fine

          also i would not go to kun jip for bbq, they are not a bbq specialist and there bbq is very mediocre

          1. re: Lau

            I had a very pleasant first time experience at Kunjip, but granted that was a few years back. Nonetheless, my more recent visits have been fine if crowded but I could see why others wouldn't enjoy their time.

            1. re: windycity

              i dont have anything against kunjip, i like certain dishes there, but its not a bbq house and their bbq isn't very good

            2. re: Lau

              Not to hijack -- but, as a Korean food novice, I've read that Korean restaurants tend to specialize in one or two dishes/types of dishes. What is Kun Jip's specialty, if any? I've had several meals there with large groups, but none of the food was particularly memorable.

        2. I second the Madangsui recommendation; it's on 35th St, away from the craziness of Ktown's main drag.

          Definitely have kalbi, the short ribs. I hope you're going with a crowd of at least 3-4 people because you have to order lots of meat at a Korean BBQ to truly enjoy it. Start off with the un-marinated plain kalbi so that you can enjoy the taste of simply meat. Then move on to a marinated variety. I have a colleague who swears by the joo-mool-luk at Madangsui; it's very good. After you're done gorging on meat, order rice or noodles. The rice should come with dwen-jang-jjigae, a fermented soybean paste soup. Usually, I go for the cold noodles, either in a cold broth or in a spicy red chilli sauce. Unfortunately, the cold noodles aren't Madangsui's strong point.

          Please don't go to Kunjip. Everything there tastes the same and is full of MSG. I also had a truly terrible experience there with the waitstaff. I'd hate for a first experience with Korean BBQ be marred by that establishment.

          After being a long-time lurker on this board, your query led me to finally sign-up for an account and post. I love Korean BBQ and love introducing people to it. I hope I'm posting in time for you to get this info!

          1. definitely try any of the gayu kaku (spelling?) locations....really good and reasonably priced

            1 Reply
            1. re: nycfoodlover77

              gyu kaku is traditionally a japanese bbq spot, not korean

            2. Kum Gang San in Flusing is great as is their restaurant in midtown. Also Woo Chon on 35th st.

              1 Reply
              1. re: El Tigre

                since this is the Manhattan board, I second Woo Chon. They are very freindly and have lots of great stuff (spicy cod roe soup) in addition to BBQ. They will show you how to cook everything and how to eat it. I agree special kalbi, and spicy pork belly is also a favorite.
                Flushing opens up a whole universe of Korean options so if you like Korean check out the Outer Boroughs board.