After retrieving a rental car, our world of options expanded exponentially.
Just as an aside, the public transit system in the greater Los Angeles Area is ridiculous. The issue being, metro LA is spread out. REALLY spread out. If you want to get anywhere by public transit, it takes FOREVER.
I tried planning an outing from our hotel in Anaheim to downtown LA. 45 minutes by car (assuming no major traffic delays), but 2 hours 45 minutes by transit. Each way. And the public transit system does not seem to take advantage of the highway system that criss-crosses the metro area.
So with our increased mobility at hand, we had options, and decided to check out some more exotic cuisine. Our search (thank you, internet) yielded a well reviewed Korean barbecue restaurant in Garden Grove, about 8 miles from the hotel.
This brings up a second driving rant, about Orange County. Many of the major thoroughfares in OC are 8-10 lane streets with a divider running down the middle. Translation, no left turns in the middle of the block. Translation, alot of U turns. This was extremely disorienting for the first day. When I tried to get to a destination that I’ve plugged into my GPS. First it tells me to make a U turn because I’m facing the wrong direction. Then I’ll be driving towards it, and the GPS will then tell me a need to do a second U turn up ahead. But I just did a U turn! What the heck? Well, it’s because the destination is mid block on the wrong side of the street, and there’s a street divider running down the middle. Ugh, confusing.
Cham Sut Gol is a Korean barbeque house inset from the street in a strip mall off main drag.
This is one of the largest dining spaces I’ve ever seen for any Korean restaurant, it could easily seat 200 or more, split over three dining areas.
So when in Rome, do as the Romans do. This is a Korean barbecue house, so we ordered the barbecue special, which included 3 types of marinated meat, and all the banchan (side dishes) we wanted. The side dishes arrived quickly after we ordered.
From the top left, going clockwise, we had
- cubed white radish with kimchi seasoning (khadugi). I’ve never been a big fan of kimchi, so whether is cabbage, or white radish cubes, it doesn’t make an impression on me.
- blanched broccoli with a spicy sauce
- marinated pressed fish cake with picked vegetables
- marinated bean sprouts (sukjunamul) – these were crisp and fresh
- pictured top left – stir fried glass sweet potato noodles (japchae). The japchae was very nice, good flavor.
- and top right – potato salad. Not bad, basically it’s a pretty familiar potato salad with little bits of cucumber, apple and korean pear in it. The potato salad was surprisingly good (maybe just because I was really hungry).
we also had a large bowl of green salad, dressed with a sweet spicy vinaigrette.
The lettuce greens were fresh and crisp, and the vinaigrette was tart and sweet, with just a little kick of spice.
Included with the meal was soup for each of us. We received a steamed egg soup (gaeran jim) in a hot earthenware bowl.
This is whipped eggs with soup stock, scallions and seaweed, steamed until the eggs rise and set. This was quite good, and kinda reminiscent of a steamed whipped egg dish that mom used to make when I was a child.
We also had a bowl of spicy tofu soup (kimchi jigae)
This is a hot earthenware bowl, filled with soft silken tofu, whipped egg, kimchi cabbage and spices, scallions, and soup broth, and brought to a boil. I’ve had this soup/stew elsewhere, but this was really good. The best interpretation of this dish I’ve had to date. The broth has lots of flavor, well seasoned, with a just a little heat from the kimchi. The egg and the tofu provide a smooth rich texture.
Next came the marinated meat. We started with dak golgi and bulgogi, which promptly went onto the propane grill.
The bulgogi is very thin strips of beef (typically sirloin), marinated in crushed garlic, soy, sugar, mirin, pureed pear, pureed onions, ginger, and sesame oil. It’s the same (or very similar to, the marinade used for kalbi). This was fabulous, probably the best part of the meal. The beef is tender and cooks fairly quickly (if you properly separate the sheets meat before laying them on the grill…. mental note to do that properly next time).
The dak gogi is boneless chicken thigh and breast meat, marinated in soy, sugar, garlic, ginger, mirin, chilies, sesame oil, and rice wine vinegar. We grilled it for a good 6-7 minutes until it was cooked through. This was not bad. Not nearly as good as the bulgogi.
My guess is, both are marinated all day (or even over night). But beef fares better with lengthy marinating, while chicken does not. At least not with the ingredients in it’s marinade… it was tougher and tighter than I like.
Arriving with the chicken and bulgogi, was pork belly. There wasn’t room for it on grill initially, so the server placed it in a ceramic dish of marinating liquids (that gave it a rich brown color by the time it was ready to go on the grill).
The pork belly was pretty good. I’m not sure about the contents of the marinade here, but since it was cooked on the same grill as the beef and the chicken, the flavors started to come together and it was hard to tell if we were eating something different, or more of the same.
Included in the meal is a dessert of ice cream (no pictured). It’s a self-serve freezer in one corner of the restaurant, where you help yourself to a cup or a cone, and scoop up one of four flavors of commercially made ice cream. I saw green tea, rocky road, mango, and what appeared to be spumoni ice cream.
Our servers were quite helpful and pleasant and more than willing to provide additional sides and meat on demand (not necessary, the initial offering was more than enough).
The room, as mentioned, is enormous. But it’s clean and organized (and thankfully, not crowded).
This was a good meal, at a decent value.