Although we men don't go around hunting things with sharp sticks anymore, the desire to cook and char flesh over the lapping flame seems as much an innate part of ourselves as leaving the toilet seat up.
It is, perhaps, an embrace of the primitive: a fulfillment of our basest, caveman instincts in wanting to see the fruits of the kill sizzle and sputter before we eat it.
I came to this conclusion after thinking about the last two dining outings with guy friends. Both have involved fire and meat. On these two separate occasions, with two separate groups of two different sets of males, we all collectively came up with the same, unanimous decision: we were going to have Korean BBQ.
No one objected or proclaimed they were on a diet. Salad eaters? If there were any among us, they did not identify themselves. Everyone gobbled up just as much meat as the next guy. Bleching was not looked down upon.
And with one group of buddies, every meet up since last year has been at Shik Do Rak, a Korean BBQ in Irvine.
It was here that my mates and I slapped fatty cuts of pig and cattle to brown over searing metal. Partially frozen and bloody slabs of steak and pork belly became hot, juice-dripping, charred swatches of goodness that we'd wrap around rice noodle squares and dunk in salted sesame oil.
But sensing a rut, I did what a good friend would do: for our next outing, I suggested Cham Sut Gol, a highly lauded Korean BBQ in Garden Grove. It would not only satisfy our requirement for fire and meat, but also fulfill another male-only predilection: to consume more food than one's stomach can conceivably hold.
Cham Sut Gol is an all-you-can-eat for one fixed price of $16.99.
Not only that: it is an AYCE from which you don't have to get up from your seat. Simply ask and they'll bring you more.
While my fellow meat-eaters flipped chicken, pork belly, and beef on the hot grates, I was preoccupied with the panchan. Though always customary, Cham Sut Gol's selection looked to be more immaculate and complete than most.
Though I am not saying you should, you could make a complete meal of these sides alone. The cooly refreshing potato salad was creamy without being rich, perhaps the best I've ever tasted. The chap chae noodles wiggled as I slurped. But what I liked most was the fluffy, airy, and savory egg custard served in the metal pot it's cooked in -- it comes free as part of the meal.
At the end of the night, I ate far too much, swigged more soju than I've ever drank to dissipate the accumulated meat grease, and had a great time communing with comrades.
But my mates told me something that shattered my assumption that we were just Neanderthals with indiscriminate tastebuds and bottomless stomachs: they preferred our old haunt, Shik Do Rak, eventhough it wasn't an AYCE. The meat's better there, they said.
Dude! Way to get all civilized.
Cham Sut Gol
9252 Garden Grove Blvd # 10
Garden Grove, CA 92844-1436