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Korean Grill Buffet in Raleigh

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I went for lunch today on the strength of Greg Cox's review in the N&O. I'm nowhere near as enthusiastic as he is. If you're a healthy eater the price for lunch ($10.95, not $9.95 as stated in the article) is not unreasonable. You're welcome to cook as much meat as you can eat. They have the proper accompaniments - lettuce leaves, raw garlic, bean paste, spicy sauce, etc. There are a few hot dishes and, at least at lunch, they were not as interesting as the review suggested.

The pluses - The staff is all English-speaking and very kind and helpful. They will cook your meats for you if you need help. They will also leave you alone if you prefer. The raw foods are fresh and crisp. There are definitely a few little gems such as a cold soup with buckwheat noodles and daikon and a lettuce/onion salad. The tofu on the hot bar wasn't half bad, either.

The minuses - Even to my American palate, the food seemed underseasoned. I generally consider Korean spicing unsubtle in the extreme. Sweet is very sweet, spicy is very spicy, all without a middle ground. I've never before been in a Korean restaurant where I didn't find some of the food far too spicy for me. Didn't have that problem at all here. Even the "spicy sauce" and the "spicy pork" were tame by Korean standards. I tried some of the grilled meat by itself before assembling the wrap and realized that the meat wasn't all that heavily seasoned. It wasn't unpleasant, just underseasoned. The array of banchans was very limited, although what there was tasted just fine.

All in all, while I can't complain too much about the quality of the food, the food at Seoul Garden is far better. Korean Grill Buffet would be an excellent introduction to Korean food for a newbie or someone who might be intimidated by the unfamiliar. The flavors, however, are somewhat Americanized and a person already familiar with Korean food might very well be disappointed. If, however, you 're jonesing for a major meat-fest, there's a terrific bang for the buck here.

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  1. What are good choices(speaking to Korean food generally) if you like spicy food? I ate at Seoul Garden a while back on a whim and while I enjoyed what I had a lot, I didn't/don't know much about the cuisine and probably could have ordered better.

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    1. re: Naco

      I presume you mean which dishes to choose rather than what restaurant to choose? If you like the tofu soup, you can request that anywhere from very mild to positively incindiery (scale of 0-5, 5 is brick red and can flambe your sinuses). The spicy pork on the grill menu should be very spicy. Many of the soups will also toast your insides. As a general rule, the redder it is, the hotter it is. However, frequently the staff will not believe a non-Korean really means "very spicy" even when he specifically requests it. You'll need to be adamant.

      I'm far from an expert on Korean food, but if you look up posts by hannaone (a CH handle that means "OneOne" in Korean) you'll get a terrific overview of Korean food. He really knows his stuff. He's got a blog at http://www.hannaone.com/ His recipes are excellent.