Mar 032014
 

I am a huge fan of Korean BBQ – sliced meats of all kinds, grilled at the table, sometimes marinated with a spicy sauce and paired with various dipping sauces. In San Diego, there are several all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ restaurants, the most popular (and my current favorite) being Manna. However, S and I still like to try out new places whenever we get a chance. We’ve heard mixed reviews of Taegukgi, an AYCE-KBBQ place that opened up last year (after the new Zion Market opened), and in February, they had a special: their original AYCE dinner menu would be $18.99 instead of $21.99. So, S and I went on the last day that this special was offered. To be honest, the special is only a dollar cheaper than Manna’s “A2″ AYCE menu, but we’re cheapos…

P1050001-13

The place is pretty decked out… including an outdoors deck area! Haha.. oh boy, I’m feeling punny tonight. Anyway, it’s odd that there’s an outdoors seating area – we didn’t see any grills on the tables. Oh well. The atmosphere of Taegukgi is more “sports-bar-like” than Manna or any other KBBQ place. S and I imagined that it’d be fun to watch a football game here when NFL season is back.

P1040999-12

The place was pretty empty by the time we left… which is when I took these photos of the interior. As you can see, there’s a vent above each table, which can be pulled down close to the grill. It’s supposed to help mitigate the smell that will be all over your clothes and hair after eating KBBQ… haha. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I guess I felt less sticky and greasy afterwards than usual?

When we were seated, the waitstaff quickly brought us a bowl of salad, an assortment of side dishes, and a plate of beef brisket.

Salad

Salad

Grill & Side Dishes

Grill & Side Dishes

I never know how to take “good” photos of Korean BBQ meals… so here are some photos of our meats and grilling experience:

Beef tongue; brisket

Beef tongue; beef brisket

P1040996-9

Pork belly; Taegukgi pork ribs

Continue reading »

Jul 282013
 

S and I really love Korean BBQ. I first discovered all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ in Raleigh, North Carolina, on my 21st birthday! Haha. Looking back, the place really wasn’t that great – especially now that I’ve had Korean BBQ in California – but I really loved grilling all the meat that I can eat. In San Diego, we’ve only been to Manna BBQ, which is ridiculously popular; I’ve rarely seen the place without a long list of people waiting. There are several other AYCE KBBQ’s in SD, but we’ve never gotten around to any of them since they’re usually priced around the same as Manna, and we’ve always heard that Manna has the best quality meat. However, some of our friends have been recommending Mapo Korean BBQ, so we went with a group for a birthday celebration.

 P1030132-1

The best thing about Mapo is that there wasn’t a line. We had made reservations, but at Manna, there’s a wait even if you make reservations (and you can only do so if your group is larger than 12). There were several other tables still available, too, so if you’re a walk-in customer I’m sure you could have been seated immediately. Anyway, above is their “Premium All-You-Can-Eat” Menu B, which offers a pretty decent selection. Like Manna, they have a 2-hour time limit, although we’re not sure how strictly it’s enforced.

P1030134-3

Banchan & Salad

We were served a few assorted side dishes (banchan) and a salad. The side dishes were all right – I liked the broccoli and cucumbers. However, I do admit that the sides were not as good as Manna’s.

Dipping sauces

Dipping sauces

The dipping sauces served here are pretty different from other AYCE restaurants that I’ve been to. From left to right: a lightly sweetened soy sauce with pickled jalapenos, garlic, and onion; chili sauce that was vaguely reminiscent of Chinese dou ban jiang (toban djan); sesame oil with sea salt and peppers (supposed to be for pork belly).

KBBQ doesn’t really lend itself to great photos, and I was busy grilling and eating (okay, mostly eating), but I managed to snap a few photos of our meat…

Beef Brisket

Thin Sliced Beef Brisket & Rib Finger Meat

Pork Belly

Sliced Black Pork Belly

Continue reading »

Mar 312013
 

A couple of my friends have been talking about taking us to check out the San Diego-area casino buffets for quite some time – it’s pretty cheap, and you get a lot of decent food. S and I have hesitated for a long time because it is pretty far out from where we live, but finally we were convinced and made the trip out to Sycuan casino, a good 35 miles away from our home.

I saw some “no cameras” signs around the casino, and the entrance to the buffet is right next to some slot machines so I didn’t want to take photos and get in trouble. Wouldn’t want to be kicked out after such a long drive…

The price for the buffet for dinner time is around $20, but if you sign up for a free Club Sycuan card, there’s an automatic 20% discount, making the price around $17 per person. Compared to the buffets in Las Vegas (or even other all-you-can-eats), the price is really good. Too bad the extra gas money makes up for it.

The food selection is actually sort of small, though, compared to many other buffets I’ve been to. There are the typical stations: salad, pasta & pizza, Mexican, Asian, “comfort food,” and of course the meat, seafood, and dessert.

P1020468-1

My friend recommends the prime rib here, and it was indeed quite delicious. You can ask for just a cut of the medium-rare meat, or have it lightly grilled for a bit more doneness. I liked it grilled, but S preferred the medium-rare version. There was also an assortment of sauces: horseradish (2 different levels of spiciness!), aioli, and plain mayo. I liked the spicy horseradish the most.

P1020469-2

And of course, crab legs. Since S doesn’t normally eat shellfish, I sort of go crazy when there’s an unlimited supply of it for me to eat. There are several versions of crab legs: chilled, steamed, and also stir-fried with peppers and onions. I preferred the chilled. Continue reading »

Mar 222012
 

Korean barbecue and I have a love-hate relationship.  I love high-quality, grilled meats (and especially love all-you-can-eat meat).  I love all the side dishes and soups and appetizers that you can get at Korean barbecue restaurants.  But, I despise the lingering smell of smoke and meat all over my clothes days and days after the meal.  I also hate the temptation of all-you-can eat; I feel an obligation to keep eating and eating, because that’s my “money’s worth”, right?  But usually I regret such decisions soon after the meal, bloated beyond my capacity.

But anyway, despite my complicated relationship with AYCE Korean barbecue, I went to Manna on Convoy St. last Saturday with some friends.  There is usually a long wait (over a hour), but I guess because it was St. Patrick’s Day, and it was rainy and cold, our total wait time was maybe half an hour or so – for a group of seven, not bad at all.

There are 2 options: A1 Premium AYCE ($24.95/person) or A2 Regular AYCE ($19.95/person).  I think for premium you can order better meats, but we all went with the regular.  You can order as many plates as you want at a time, and as many plates as you want, with a couple of caveats: there is a 2-hour time-limit for your meal, and if you don’t finish something, they will charge you for it.

Throughout the evening, we ordered pork belly, beef boneless short ribs, beef rib tips, beef brisket, beef tongue, and galbi (short ribs).  I think my favorites were the brisket and pork belly.  The brisket was actually thinly sliced, which is unexpected, but really delicious.

Pork belly and beef boneless short rib on the grill

There were also unlimited side dishes.  I guess the point is to make you eat more side dishes and less meat.  That didn’t work for us since we ate plenty of both.  Candied potatoes, kimchi, thinly sliced daikon, sprouts… all so good.

Candied potatoes, marinated greens, kimchi

Sliced daikon, glass noodles, kimchi bean sprouts, pickled vegetables

Salad with ginger vinaigrette dressing

The salad was one of my favorites, actually.  SK raves to me about it sometimes – I’ve never seen him so excited by a salad.

Along with the A2 All-You-Can-Eat are some soups and steamed dishes.  One of my friends ordered a soybean paste stew, and all of us shared some steamed egg dishes.  The eggs were pretty good – too firm for my liking but just perfect for SK.  The flavor was spot-on.

I left Manna Korean BBQ feeling.. well, not as bloated as I usually am after AYCE meals.  (Maybe I have finally matured?)  I think the great thing about Manna is that they use good quality meat, whereas many other AYCE places use cheaper meats and just marinate them.  If there’s an occasion, I would love to come back.

Manna Korean BBQ
4428 Convoy St, San Diego, CA
(858) 278-3300

Hours:
Mon-Thu   4pm-11pm
Fri-Sat  1pm-11:30pm
Sun  1pm-10pm

Dec 032009
 

So it was my birthday a couple of weekends ago, and my friends and I went to a Korean barbecue in Raleigh, Korean Grill Buffet, to celebrate! My roomie has heard some pretty good things about this place. It’s an all-you-can-eat grill, which of course gets all the guys really excited. The pricing is decent, so I was looking forward to it.

If you don’t know how Korean bbq works, basically you have a grill at your table and cook the meat at your own table. Some of the meat has been marinated already, and there is sauce available for the others. I usually make a lettuce wrap with a couple of pieces of grilled beef or pork, a small amount of rice, and tiny bit of Korean chili paste, and I eat the entire wrap in one bite.

The restaurant is medium-sized with a buffet in the middle and grill tables on the sides. We had a rather large party so we took up an entire 8-person table with two grills, but if your group is smaller you’ll be pretty close to your neighboring party. The interior was overall a little too dimly lit for my liking, but the individual tables had more lighting from the overhead exhaust fan set-up.

The buffet had the meat assortment at the start: chicken thighs (both marinated and unmarinated), marinated pork belly, marinated pork/ bulgolgi, and unmarinated beef. Moving on there was lettuce, different sauces and kimchi dishes, cold noodles, seaweed salad, etc. Finally, at the end of the buffet were some soups and typical Asian-style dishes like kung pao chicken and mapo tofu.

None of us really went for any other of the side dishes and of course all stacked up on the meat (9 Asians, 6 of them guys.. what did you expect?), and began grilling. Our server was helpful and attentive – changed the grilling surface regularly, replaced the shears when we accidentally took them apart, gave us another set of tongs…overall, pretty good service.

As for the grill itself? It was not bad. The marinated meats had way too much flavor, which was expected – the meats were basically sitting in sauce, so they are soaking up the flavor the entire time. The bulgogi is particularly salty – the thin slices are very easily overseasoned. The unseasoned beef slices were much better, and we enjoyed those a lot. The flavoring of the pork belly was good, although it did not hold up well to the grilling because the texture became rubbery very quickly. Finally, the chicken thighs were very tender, especially the unmarinated ones, but they do take a while to cook completely on the grill, so you should be advised to cut them into small pieces for faster cooking time.

Table-center grill, filled with assorted meat, mushrooms, etc. I am attempting to cut the meat pieces smaller & easier to handle.

After I was satiated with meat, I decided to try some of their other offerings. Nothing in particular impressed me, although I was really horrified by their red bean soup, which was salty… I’m beginning to think that this restaurant really has a salt problem. Actually, most of my fellow diners and I believe that they’ve made a mistake and used salt instead of sugar in the soup. Whatever the case, it was quite bad.

Overall, it was a decent experience. Lunch price is pretty reasonable at just $12.95 per person on weekends. (You can check out their full menu pricing on their website.) I’m not sure I’ll be coming back anytime soon, though, partly because of the drive, and partly because I just don’t want to smell like grill for the rest of my day.

Restaurant: Korean Grill Buffet
Pricing: (for lunch) $12-15; (for dinner) $17-20

Switch to our mobile site