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1 June 2004
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Korea Life Blog - Worst Kalbi Dinner Ever

A few weeks back (this day) Julie and I had the worst Kalbi dinner ever. Ironically it was the dinner we had to quite belatedly celebrate both of our birthdays. Our original plan was to go to Outback Steakhouse in Suwon station. Neither one of us particularly love that place...in fact I suggested we just get Kalbi, an idea Julie scoffed at considering it was supposed to be a special dinner. "Kalbi is special," I contested. I guess I've been in Korea too long where I readily pass up decent Western food for Korean.

There wasa 30 minute wait to get into Outback. During the wait (we hadn't eaten all day and we were starving) we both decided to hell with it and sought out a local Kalbi place. I, for one, was relieved. I love Kalbi!

We should have known by the fact the place wasn't crowded, a sign we usually judge a restaurant by, but we were hungry and there weren't many kalbi places nearby. It started with the side dishes. Nothing special at all and the kimchi was totally fresh. I love kimchi, but only after it's aged a bit as they usually serve it. In fact, the kimchi I have now has been in my fridge over a month or two and it tastes absolutely delicious.

I realize now I did a bad job of photographing the awful aspect of the meal. The meat looks normal in this picture and it's hard to see just how many bones there were, almost 50%. Also, it was supposedly yang nyum kalbi, the tender kind that is marinated in that delicious sauce, but once it started cooking the meat was dry and tough and stuck like glue to the "grill" if you can call it that. It took forever for the meat to cook and the garlic kept rolling down into the holes. Also, not once did one of the idle ajummas come over voluntarily to change or replenish side dishes. The situation was actually quite comical. Because this was supposed to be a celebratory dinner, both Julie and I kept looking at each other and at the food and saying how good it seemed, while both of us were thinking the opposite.

We did our best to eat the meal and act like it was good. However, when the Naengmyun came I could hold back no longer. It tasted like it had been sitting on a counter for a week. The noodles had a weird fermented taste. Neither one of us could eat it. We both confessed we thought this the worst Kalbi meal we ever had. You can see how the meat had burned and stuck to the grill there.

The only saving grace of the meal was the service dwenjang chigae which actually was delicious at least. Not enough to comfort us as we paid the bill though! Oh well, we won't be going back there again.


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