For my brother’s birthday last week, the family decided to try our hand at Korean BBQ. If you have never tried it before, it is a really unique experience and I think everyone should give it a shot… with an open mind, and empty stomach and a sense of humor! We went to Restaurant 678 in Duluth and they were amazing. We told them we were all newbies to the world of Korean BBQ (everyone else in the restaurant was Korean) and they took the time to not only explain every unfamiliar ingredient that came to our tables, but also what to do with each ingredient, and they even cooked the meat for us (more experienced diners were cooking their own meat).
For a full comprehensive explanation of the components, etiquette and technique go here. Since I did not research going into my first Korean BBQ establishment, I am going to describe the experience exactly as it happened.
First, there is a charcoal grill in the middle of the table. They actually bring a bucket of hot charcoal and drop it into the hole in the table… a little scary when you’re dining with two young children! The staff was great about warning us when they were bringing something hot to the table and gave us a chance to round up the kids in an out-of-the-way place before they brought anything dangerous. A grate is placed over the hot coals and the trenches around the grate are filled with corn and cheese, kimchi (spicy, pickled cabbage and bean sprouts), and egg with green onions.
The first choice you have to make (aside from which drinks to try- we tried Korean beer, rice wine, and raspberry wine!) is about your meats. We asked the server how much he recommended for the number of people at our table and we made our choices. There are many options, from pork belly to brisket, sirloin to short ribs, marinated or plain. Definitely get a variety so you can try different combinations of meats, sauces, and toppings. The short ribs were my favorite!
Then, the toppings start coming in. When I say your table will have al ot of little bowls on it, I’m not kidding. Big bowls, small bowls, bowls of lettuce and rice and peppers, bowls of sauces and pickles and oils you can’t identify…. so many bowls!
Once your meat is cooked to your liking (they will provide you with tongs for turning the meat and scissors for cutting it into bite-sized pieces), you can begin assembly! On our table, in addition to the ingredients around the bowl, we were given spicy pickles, marinated onions, a sesame oil sauce (meant to be eaten with the pork), a soybean sauce (cold to be eaten with the beef and hot to be eaten with rice), garlic cloves, marinated tofu, sliced jalapenos, and cucumber. You’re also given lettuce to make beef wraps and super yummy daikon radish slices for the pork.
My nephew Beau loved the lettuce wraps:
Later we received bowls of fermented soybean and tofu soup that was to die for.
Just when you start to fill up, they bring out the ramen soup. This is delicious and can be served mild or spicy. When we said some of us like spicy and some not so much, they were happy to bring mild soup and little bowls of spice and peppers for those who wanted to kick it up a notch.
At the end of the meal we received a traditional sweet Korean rice drink for dessert. It too was delicious!
What an experience! We all left with full bellies and smiles on our faces. Thanks, 678!