Lessons in gluttony and kimchi – ins and outs of Korean BBQ

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All You Can Eat Korean Barbeque, otherwise known as A.Y.C.E., has become popular amongst non-Koreans for its indulgent, interactive food experience. The idea, nonexistent in Korea, combines the American love for unlimited food and savory meat with traditional Korean dipping sauces and side dishes (called banchan). For many people, this is a match made in heaven.

Upon entering A.Y.C.E. restaurants, an unmistakable aroma of meat wafts through the air. Usually busy during dinner hours, servers bring out as many platters of raw meat as the table can handle. When the meat arrives, the diners cook it themselves at their own pace. There are no limits to how many times one can order; however, most restaurants will charge an additional fee if there is an excessive amount of leftover meat.

Once a party is satisfied with the first course, the server then brings out an assortment of side dishes and salad. The salad usually has a slightly sweet and vinegary taste to it, which compliments the meat quite nicely. Out of the side dishes, the most popular is kimchi, which goes well with the meat and rice and dduk bosam (rice paper). The rice paper is used as a wrap for meat, along with the salad, garlic, kimchi or anything else one wants. Most restaurants also serve steamed eggs, doenjang jjigae (traditional Korean soybean paste stew) and scallion pancakes. These add variety to the incoming waves of meat.

When it is time to order, the possibilities are endless. Customers are allowed to choose from various sets; the more expensive the set is, the more choices of meat it entails. A popular choice is the chadohl (beef brisket). It is very thin, cooks quickly and goes well with ganjang (Korean soy sauce). Other delectable choices that are popular amongst both Koreans and non-Koreans are samgyupsal (Korean bacon), yangnyum galbi (marinated beef ribs) and bulgogi (marinated beef). The samgyupsal goes well with the ssamjang (red chili paste) or gireumjang (sesame oil and salt). Both the yangnyum galbi and bulgogi are marinated, so there is no need to dip them in anything. If diners are feeling more adventurous, they can try dishes like Gopchang (grilled intestines) which are popular amongst Koreans. While the concept of eating intestines may sound unappealing to most Americans, those who dare to try it will be rewarded.

With the plethora of A.Y.C.E. restaurants occupying Koreatown, finding the right spot can be overwhelming. Many frequent Korean BBQ goers have found Hae Jang Chon, Oh Dae San, Road to Seoul and Moo Dae Po 2 to be great spots. If they are looking for a place that specializes in pork, Don Day is a good option. While Park’s BBQ, Honey Pig and 8 Cut may not be all-you-can-eat, they are quality restaurants and are worth visiting.

Koreatown is located in central Los Angeles, near W. 8th Street and Eastern Avenue. Hours will vary depending on the restaurant.