I grew up eating meals in the kitchens of my Korean friends and frequenting Woo Lae Oak for birthday parties and Father’s Day (that would be the original Woo Lae Oak on Western and Wilshire thank you very much–none of this BH/Soho b.s.).
When I moved to Oakland in 2006 I was happy to find an abundance of Korean barbeque in the city. The first one I ever visited (and a favorite to this day) was Sahn Maru. It’s kind of like eating at your Korean grandmother’s house. Great seafood pancake, amazing spicy pork bulgogi (perhaps my favorite ever), and kind service. No barbeque-ing at the tables there though, and frankly, I don’t miss it. Who needs to get all smoky and pay to cook their own dinner? Not I.
The humble decor isn’t the draw here, but it’s comfy. And anyway, the price of upscale decor in Korean restaurants often amounts to being forced to listen to house music or mid-90’s “down-tempo” grooves for your entire meal.
Another favorite is Ohgane. Newer, sleeker, and larger than Sahn Maru, I find Ohgane to be a nice place to go just to mix things up a little. It’s also a bit livelier than Sahn Maru if you’re looking for more of a night-out-on-the-town type place. I love the thinly sliced radish they bring with the lettuce leaves here.
Finally there is Jong Ga House. Before it was A Rockridge Life, it was a Grand Lake Life, and Jong Ga was right around the corner. This place has funky decor and a bar, which up the kitsch factor. My favorite part of Jong Ga is the cold and spicy noodle soup offered gratis while you wait for your order.
I’m trying to get up the nerve to bring the bulgogi home tonight and make my own. I’ve looked at a few recipes, and it doesn’t look too hard, though I don’t know how close I’ll get in terms of authenticity. Here are three recipes I’m considering.
- Bulgogi (Chow)
- Bulgogi (by Chef John J. Nihoff, The Culinary Institute of America via Epicurious.com)
- Bulgogi (by Hyungshin Songvia via Food Network)