Since The Astronomer’s class load on Fridays is especially light, he hopped on the Metro and jammed to Koreatown to meet me for dinner. We were car-less during our first couple of weeks in Los Angeles and became quite familiar with the public transit system. The Metro isn’t as dependable as the subways in New York City, but in all honesty, it gets the job done fairly well.
Tahoe Galbi Restaurant is located in between my office and the Wilshire-Western Metro station. Besides being convenient, the place received Korean barbecue connoisseur Wandering Chopstick’s seal of approval.
We arrived before the Friday night dinner rush and were seated promptly at a table fit for six. After perusing the menu for a brief moment, we both slammed it shut and declared that All U Can Eat was the only way to go—we were game for a meat fest.
For a measly $17 each, we feasted on bunches of banchan and all the meat we could stomach. The banchan arrived first. The colorful selection included white jelly squares topped with scallions and a soy vinaigrette, Jap-Chae (translucent starch noodles with vegetables and beef in a sweet garlic sauce), K’ong Na-Mul (bean sprouts seasoned with sesame oil), Musaengchae/Muchae (pickled diakon), kimchi, Gam-Ja Salad (potato salad) and steamed broccoli with chili pepper paste. There were also little squares of rice paper that weren’t very photogenic.
When it comes to complimentary flavors, it makes perfect sense to pair cool pickled vegetables with salty grilled meats. These diverse little nibbles really brightened up our otherwise protein-intensive meal.
Additional side items included a fresh green salad, a bubbling fermented bean paste stew with tofu and whole shrimps, and a delicate steamed egg. The salad was bland-city, while the stew’s flavors reminded me of Vietnamese canh chua and the egg was reminiscent of Japanese Chawanmushi.
Whereas the banchan enhanced the Korean barbecue experience for us, these side items didn’t quite meld with the meat at hand. Perhaps the clever folks at Tahoe serve these side items to distract diners’ taste buds, thus effectively lowering the volume of meat they consume.
A number of condiments were also set upon our table including freshly sliced garlic and jalapenos, a thick fermented tofu sauce, sesame oil and Korean fish sauce.
The All U Can Eat menu includes a selection of six meats, including crowd pleasers like bulgogi and galbi. Since it was our first time in a long time eating Korean barbecue, we ordered a bit of everything from our amiable waiter.
Our first batch of meats included Chadolbaegi (Korean sliced brisket) and beef tongue. Is it just me or does beef tongue taste a bit like mild liver? Both cuts were good, but not nearly as exciting as the heaps of bulgogi and galbi to come.
Next, we enthusiastically dove into galbi, bulgogi and chicken. The galbi (marinated beef short ribs in a ganjang-based (Korean soy suace) sauce) was tender, well-seasoned and made us feel like cavemen. The bulgogi (thin slices of sirloin beef marinated with a mixture of soy sauce, sugar, sesame oil, garlic) was equally awesome. Whereas I preferred the thin pieces of galbi due to the ratio of meat to marinade, The Astronomer liked the thicker slabs of bulgogi. I didn’t taste any of the chicken, but The Astronomer proclaimed it juicy and flavorful.
The pork belly was our least favorite meat because after eating copious amounts of beef slathered in a sweet marinade, the unseasoned pork just tasted bland.
After completing our first platter of meats, The Astronomer was feeling bold and ordered a second helping of our favorites—kalbi and bulgogi. My belly was overwhelmed by this point, so I manned the grill like a pro.
From chicken to beef to pork, The Astronomer and I were really impressed by how tender each and every one of the meats at Tahoe Galbi were. In addition to the excellent food, the service and ambiance were respectively efficient and clean. I especially appreciated the mid-meal grill change because meat juices have a nasty way of crusting up the grill’s surface and charring innocent meats.
As we walked from the restaurant to the Metro stop, we wondered if the surge of protein flowing through our systems would stay for longer than 24 hours. Sadly, probably not.
Tahoe Galbi Restaurant
3986 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90010