K-town series: Ssang Kogi Nara

Just look for the lit-up sign that you can't understand...

Oh good, English...

I know I said that we were going to stay away from Korean BBQ joints for this series but after further thought, it didn’t seem right since KBBQ is such a staple of the K-town restaurant industry.  Rather than blog about the well-known joints like Road to Seoul or Genwa, Kristen of Rock My Palate and I decided to check out a restaurant we had never heard of but came recommended by Mattatouille.  The draw?  Not only did this place offer AYCE kbbq, it also offered AYCE sushi/sashimi.

Ssang Kogi Nara is located on the outskirts of Koreatown in what can only be described as a “sketchy” neighborhood.  The restaurant seems out of place here amongst industrial businesses that are closed for the night. The interior isn’t the nicest but hey, it’s the food that matters, right?

The menu is simple – 4 different options based on how much you think you can pack away in your tummy.  We opted to go with Option C since AYCE kbbq, sushi AND sashimi ($25) seemed overkill for 2 people (and a kidlet).  For $20, we got AYCE meat and one plate of sashimi to share.  If I remember correctly, we opted for the short rib (galbi), marinated ribs, bulgogi and pork bulgogi. Continue Reading →

Picture Perfect…

Weeding through some of my off-loaded pics, there’s quite a bit from restaurants and events that I probably will never write up.  Rather than let them go to waste, here’s a post just for your eyes.  :)

Korean BBQ Festival

Please don't eat us...we're cute pigs!

Korean Hot Dog from Seoul Sausage Company


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Vegas, baby… Honey Pig off the Strip

Last October, Husband and I celebrated our 1 year wedding anniversary on the Big Island of Hawaii.  We stayed at the Hilton Waikoloa where we promptly got suckered into buying a timeshare with their Grand Vacations Club.  Fast forward a few months later, we get a call inviting us to stay at the Las Vegas HGVC on the Strip for a whopping $99 (plus tax & fees) for 3 nights.  $99 (plus a few hours listening to some guy try to sell us on an upgrade) for 3 whole nights?  Um, okay, sure! We decided to take advantage of this deal during my birthday since it was a major one…the BIG 3-0.

Here piggy piggy piggy...

One of my friends moved there a little over a year ago so we met up with him Friday night for dinner.  Since Dan and I have only ever hung out on the Strip (there’s more to Vegas???) we were unaware of what was off it food-wise.  My friend, D, took us into the Asian district for all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ at Honey Pig.  As we drove to it, I oogled all the shopping centers filled with various Asian eateries – Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai…  I told Husband that we were renting a car next time cuz I wanted to explore and EAT!!!

When we got there, the cartoon-y and cute pig logo confirmed this was a sister restaurant to the Honey Pig in Los Angeles’s Koreatown which I have never been to.

Continue Reading →

How big is your wok? Mongolian BBQ at Big Wok

Husband is a big fan of Mongolian BBQ.  When we discovered an all-you-can-eat place in Manhattan Beach during one of our exploratory drives, he was ecstatic.  Big Wok has now become one of our “go to” places for when we don’t feel like cooking and want something inexpensive and filling to eat.

Wok me, Amadeus

This place is pretty popular, especially during the dinner hours.  We usually try to get there  earlier so that we don’t have to wait in lines to get our food and have it cooked. We’ve never had to wait to be seated and are always greeted quickly by a smiling waitress.  Service here has always been great.  Parking on the other hand…

Meat, meat, meat

Just some of the veggie offerings

Big Wok operates like any other AYCE Mongolian BBQ.   You grab a bowl, fill it with semi-frozen slices of meat, vegetables and noodles.  Then you top it off with various sauces and hand the dish to a cook who gives you back a plate of steaming hot yummy eats.  The selection at Big Wok isn’t as big as other places I’ve been to but it has enough variety to make for interesting combinations.

The meat section offers turkey, chicken, pork, beef and lamb.  I usually do a  combo of chicken, beef and lamb, sometimes pork.  There’s also tofu for the vegetarians.

As for veggies, there’s your usual culprits – zucchini, green onions, celery, mushrooms, chopped green and red cabbage.  There’s also spinach, tomato, water chestnuts, baby corn…well, you get the idea.

Pick your sauce

There’s a good variety of sauces.  Regular BBQ oil, spicy BBQ oil, garlic water, ginger water, curry sauce, lemon water, chili oil…  There’s a card with a few combinations but, like all other Mongolian BBQ places I’ve ate at, I find it best if you at least double the number of spoonfuls.  Otherwise, you end up with a bland dish.  I like to use the spicy BBQ oil, garlic water (be sure to add in the garlic chips), a little ginger water and a spoonful of chili oil.  I think I may have to add in more chili as it never comes out as spicy as I want.

There's meat under all that...

Mmmm mmmm....

I don’t usually do noodles as I prefer rice.  I’m not sure why.  I do like noodles but I never get them at Mongolian BBQ places.  Maybe it’s because I don’t want to fill up on them when I know I’m also going to get “mana biscuits”.  Husband, on the other hand, is the opposite.  He loads up on meat and noodles.  Completely skips the veggie section…*sigh*

Oodles of noodles

Hey, where's the greens?

Mana Biscuits

Back to the “mana biscuits”.  What I’m talking about are those Chinese flat sesame-crusted bread thingies.  Husband and I used to play a lot of WoW and talked about having a guild party at our place and doing a WoW themed menu.  We decided that these bread items would be perfect “mana biscuits”.  I know, we’re dorks…  I love these things, though.  Husband doesn’t eat them since he’s got oodles of noodles on his plate so I always gobble them up.  There’s a nice crispness on the outside; the inside is warm and a little chewy.  I like to wipe the plate with them…so good!

Our total bill, tip included, ranges from $25-30 depending on if we get drinks or not.  Big Wok also offers some sides like fried shrimp, kimchee, soup and wontons but I’ve never ordered them and never seen anyone else with those dishes on their table.

I give Big Wok 3 1/2 NOMs!

Big Wok
250 N Sepulveda Blvd
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
(310) 798-1155
Big Wok Mongolian BBQ on Urbanspoon

New Seoul BBQ

New Seoul BBQ

Over the Christmas break, the Husband and I met up with my parents for lunch in Orange County.  The last few times we’ve done this, we’ve gone to New Seoul BBQ, an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ Buffet.  The reason…meat-fest!

Unlike Manna, the place we frequent up in LA, New Seoul is a self-serve buffet.  This is more convenient since there is no time wasted trying to flag down a waiter and put in an order for meat.  Also, New Seoul has a wider variety of choices than Manna’s all-you-can-eat menu.  I think the meat is better quality as well.  It is more expensive, though.  Since my parents always paid, I never got a look at the check but I’m guessing $20ish/pp for weekend lunch.

New Seoul BBQ - banchan

When you walk in, you’re greeted by a long bar.  On one side, various banchan and a salad bar await your consumption.  Different kinds of kimchi, spinach, bean sprouts, tofu are just some of the choices.  Overall, the banchan is of decent quality.  They have a lot of the things I like to eat, including pickled shredded daikon and almond jelly.

The other side offers up various marinated meats and seafood.  The usual suspects – bulgogi, kalbi, chicken and pork bulgogi – are present but so are pork belly, tripe, beef tongue, baby octopus, mussels, and whole shrimp.

There’s also stations offering up hot items like udon, fried rice, japchae, egg rolls, fried mandoo, steamed egg.  The japchae is average though the noodles are sometimes overcooked, maybe from sitting under the heatlamp for too long.  The steamed egg is not that great.  They also have a couple of types of nigiri sushi but I usually pass as the one time I tried it, the fish didn’t taste fresh; it had a strong fish taste.  For dessert, there’s fruit, jello and a yogurt machine as well as a persimmon-rice drink.

New Seoul BBQ - Various meats on the table grill

Whenever we’ve gone, the service has been good.  We seem to always get the same table everytime.  The booths are big and spacious, giving everyone a lot of elbow room but still keeping them in arm’s reach of the grill.  The waitresses bring the rice (white or “brown” (purple, actually)) to the table instead of us getting it ourselves and they also cut the meat. They are pretty good about checking in on us as well.

While the price may seem steep for a buffet, for our family it is a decent deal since we can pack away the Korean BBQ.  Just be careful as they will charge you for any meat you leave behind.

Everytime we have come here, the place has been fairly empty.  I don’t know if it’s the cost that’s prohibitive for lunch or if people prefer to come here during the dinner hours.  It works out nicely for us as we get good service and there’s no line at the buffet.

The Catty Critic gives New Seoul BBQ 4 NOMs.

New Seoul BBQ
9902 Garden Grove Boulevard
Garden Grove, CA 92844
(714) 537-9292
New Seoul Korean BBQ Buffet on Urbanspoon

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