Last week Kyle and I ventured out with our friends Steve and Jen for my first foray at Dae Jang Keum. For those of you uninitiated, Dang Jang Keum is a Korean bbq restaurant over in the Convoy area of San Diego on the corner of Engineer and Brinell. (PS: One of the main attractions for Korean bbq is that you grill your own meat at your table.)
I was very glad that I checked Yelp for photos of the outside before I made my way over because as is sometimes common in the area, not many of the signs were in English (see below).
But thanks to the pictures and my trusty iPhone, I made it on my first try and didn’t even have to make any u-turns! This was quite an accomplishment for me since I usually head out to new locations with what I refer to as a “cell phone and a dream” mentality.
Compared with other Korean bbq establishments I have been to, this place was very clean and even a little fancy. The most impressive part was that we were the only white people in the whole place- definitely a good sign. If Koreans are willing to eat here than I have a certain level of confidence in the quality. And happily, I wasn’t disappointed!
We ordered some sort of combination that can really only be properly identified as a meat fiesta. It contained all of the Korean bbq standbys like bulgogi, thin sliced brisket etc. and then we added an order of short ribs to round out the whole shebang. Communicating was not the easiest task but after some corrections and vigorous pointing, our order was placed. Oh yeah did I mention that the combo comes with a large Hite (beer) and soju (kind of like sake)?!? Sheer genius as far as I’m concerned. Any combo that includes beer/booze is a combo worth ordering. Of course given my preggers-ness I could only enjoy the concept but you can be sure I’ll be return post-pregnancy to enjoy some beer and sake-like substance with my bulgogi.
One of my absolutely favorite parts of the Korean bbq experience is that you get these little dishes of a variety of different kinds of yum yums pretty much right off the bat. This is really awesome on a few levels. Number one, I like any place that gives you something to eat within a few minutes of sitting down. I’m impatient (and these days usually starving) and this immediate access to food pleases me greatly. Number two, you can’t beat the variety. There’s a little something for everyone in those dishes. Every place has a little variation on what they bring out but it usually includes kimchee, sesame-ish greens, fishcake (way better than it sounds, I promise), broccoli, some sort of seaweed deal and a variety of other goodies to keep you busy while they assemble your dinner. And finally, number three, these items are refillable. So don’t worry that I ate all the kimchee! More is on the way! Even though we didn’t need a refill on our appetizer items on this particular trip, I was comforted by knowing that I could pig out with reckless abandon and I wouldn’t be leaving my tablemates in the lurch. And keep in mind, if you get a combo, you also get a salad and some soup! Here’s another photo courtesy of Yelpsters.
Now here’s where the excitement begins. As we’re nibbling away at our appetizers awaiting our giant plate of raw meat, the entire place goes dark. We lost power in the entire place! As iPhone lights started popping on and everyone was Facebooking our predicament a lovely glow surrounded us. You might think, well, I guess your night was over. But apparently Koreans laugh in the face of darkness and lack of electricity! They sprang into action and ran around placing candles on tables and a woman who appeared to be the owner came out with a headlamp and directed it at our table. So basically, it was “game on”. A few minutes later, out came the guy with the coals for our grill and we commenced to grilling by headlamp. About 10 minutes later when the lights came back on, we all agreed it was almost better with them out. It was a nice, calm, relaxing grill session while it lasted though. Below you can see Kyle and Jen working together to make the grill magic happen by shining the iPhone on the table.
We finished off our meat fiesta and the waitress brought us a delicious cold, cinnamon tea that was amazing! I believe the intention is to settle your stomach after eating mass quantities of meat and stave off the need for Alka Seltzer later. Whatever the case it was the perfect ending to a delightful meal with good friends.
I highly recommend Dae Jang Keum and I even more highly recommend that you invite me (particularly after this baby gets here) so we can share some Hite.
Viva la Korean bbq!