Smelling like the restaurant in which I just dined is a peeve I haven't been able to shake. Those once-seductive scents that originated from, say, a tandoor or teppan tend to stifle as they radiate off my clothes and permeate every inch of my car, so the drive home typically means windows down, no matter what the weather. But, as is often the case, suffering through the stench is well worth it, just as it was after a hearty meal of Korean barbecue at Korea House, the Colonial Drive outpost of the Longwood original.
For the uninitiated, sizzling meats on a tabletop grill takes a little know-how and preparation. Brash arrogance can result in botched meats, and I say this from personal experience. At Korea House, the servers make every effort to ensure you don't bugger things up, and will even offer tips on how to best enjoy your DIY grilling experience.
For $29.99, the AYCE (all-you-can-eat) affair is a relative steal, but, in order to prevent meat-sharing shenanigans, all parties at the table must order it (though servers can sometimes be persuaded otherwise if you're on the up-and-up). With eight different plates of meat, it pays to be a bit judicious in your grilling approach, so start off with lighter cuts like thinly shaved unmarinated beef brisket and beef tongue. Once the grill is nice and hot, throw all the meat onto the grill (don't place them individually, as I've done in the past) and toss the meat around with the supplied tongs to prevent it from sticking. These cuts don't take long to cook, so don't oversear and, flavorful as they are, do give them a dip in sesame oil prior to eating. Then work your way up to thicker cuts like the ribeye, boneless short rib and pork belly, being careful not to undercook the latter for obvious reasons. When cooked right, the pork belly will be the highlight; if overdone, well, then it's just sad. As you tear into the flesh, don't ignore the six banchan (side dishes) entering your periphery, especially the oi muchim (spicy cucumber) and, of course, kimchi.
At this point, one of the friendly servers will likely clean the grill (if not, be sure to ask them to), so take a soju break before finishing off the marinated cuts of beef, spicy chicken bulgogi and LA galbi (marinated short ribs). Start with the short ribs, because the heavy marinade of the bulgogis will leave a blotch caked on the grill. The bulgogi, by the way, can be enjoyed wrapped in romaine lettuce (you'll be given a bowl of it) and seasoned with ssamjang (spicy fermented bean paste), but I prefer eating it with rice. The only downside to rice is it occupies space in your stomach reserved for meat, so be prudent in portioning. Other occupiers included in the price: edamame and dumplings.
If some members of your party aren't up for barbecue, the dak-bokkeum ($12.99) – stellar stir-fried chicken and vegetables – is a safe bet. A steaming bowl of mandu-guk ($12.99) – dumplings and rice cakes in beef broth – will make happy fun dance in your tummy. If dessert is a must, forgo mealy and fruitless potbingsu ($4.99), shaved ice with red beans and sweet sticky rice cake, and opt for deep-fried banana ($6.99) with ice cream instead, but only if you must. If stir-fries and desserts prove too distracting, get your AYCE on and go back, Jack, and do it again.