Flush with all the excitement of last weeks metastasized thread on upscale Korean food, I went to dinner with 4 friends at Kang Nam Galbi last night.
It was excellent! We had short ribs, thin sliced pork belly, and spicy squid on the grill over hard wood lump charcoal. All were delicious, especially the pork belly/bacon. The belly arrives in bright pink deep frozen raw slices on a plate and comes with a sesame oil salt slurry for dredging. When you throw a slab o bacon on the grill of live coals, the edges curl up and little pools of pork fat coalesce on top of the meat fades to light brown from the outside edge in. A quick flip and thirty seconds to char some grill marks on the otherside, a dousing of salty oil and kerploosh, deliciousness. I was eating the last 5 slices of these long after I had ceased to be hungry.
The short ribs arrived without the bones (which I didn't tune into until we were already on our way out and noticed another table charring their rib bones with anticipation). Next time I'll know to remind the waitress that we'reinterested in bones even though we're not Korean. The meat that arrives was good, and was especially good wrapped up in a thin slice of pickled daikon with a dollop of hot sauce and some slivers of chili soaked scallions and a charred hunka hunka burning garlis. They also brought lettuce leafs to make little wrap-ups with the beef. The spicy squid was also tasty.
Each BBQ meal comes with a little crock of seafood tofu soup and a metal bowl of white rice, plus a somewhat chewy rendition of Pa Jun (rice flour pancakewith scallion and carrots) with a superlative sesame/soy dipping sauce. We also ordered a dorsot bibimbap, rice and vegetables and mung bean jelly and beef with sweet red chili sause served in a searingly hot stone casserole. Gary is on record as preferring this bibimbap above others in the city. It was excellent,the garnish was a degree more sophisticated than my current favorite dolsot bibimbap at So Gong Dong tofu house which has a more liberal hand with the oil and the salt in the casserole. This bibimpap also could been stirred a little more aggressively: the bottom was charred to a black crust by the time the rice was excavated which took the flavorprofile a little too far in the direction of soot. Next time, we'll be more proactive about getting all the rice equal time meeting it's fiery maker at surface of hte stone.
The waitresses were efficient and helpful, stepping in to trade out the grills when they got too caked with chars, and taking over prep duty when a moment's hesitation revealedour inexperience at grilling our own squid. And hte selction of panchan, the small pickled veggy and other dishes, cam in a mind boggling variety of colors and textures. There must have 25 different panchan for the five of us. Only a few fell flat: I could done without the cool watery omelet and some ofthe fishier dried fish and burdock combos. but all of the kimchis were delicious, and i really liked the fried tofu slabs with chili and soy and the sweet potato and carrot compote.
At the end of the meal we got a thin gruel of intensely aromatic ginger cinnamon rice broth: kind of like a aerosolized weapons grade rice pudding (take that trotter, tru and trio!): all of the flavor and intensity with none of the heaviness. It was a perfect finish to a terrific meal.
We got more food than 5 could eat for $61 and left many panchan on the table out of fullness. I consider that a phenomenal value, and significantly less expensive than most of the other Korean BBQ meals I've had in the past. The meat was not quite as good it was on the one occasion I had it at Hae Woon Dae, but I wouldn't hesitate for a moment to return to Kang Nam Galbi for another meal.
Kang Nam Galbi rates a 2.2 on the SC/C1 hipometer, it offers no imperial banquet and no soju tini. The only beer available is OB, but in true chowhound style, full bottles of scotch are available.