Orange County is pretty set when it comes to Korean barbecue. Supremely hungry and want to smell your meat as you cook it? Head over the Cham Sut Gol, the grill in Garden Grove that's fed college students (and everyone else) for years. Want something a little more.. upscale or full of offal meat? Gen's got two locations for you. And then if you want something more American to introduce your gabacho friends to, All That in Irvine has got you covered.
And that's not even counting all the other barbecue places that dot the county's Korean enclaves (my Korean hair guy keeps telling me to check them out).
So when, I heard about Bulgolgi House's imminent opening in La Palma, I thought to myself, "does Orange County really need another Korean barbecue joint? What's going to set Bulgolgi House apart?"
Well, I went, I saw, and I'm convinced. Bulgolgi House has a place in Orange County's seared-meat scape.
Here's the concept: Bulgolgi House is the kind of place you'll go to when you want your Korean barbecue without a side of smelly clothes. Where you can go to a bar and order some simple — but tasty — drinks. And where you can catch a game or four.
Basically, it's the Buffalo Wild Wings of Korean barbecue.
And, you know what, that's not a bad thing. The meat quality is good, the service top notch, the selection is on the better side of average, and the AYCE order comes with unlimited access to what is basically a miniature Chinese buffet.
You have your choice of two menus for both lunch and dinner. The cheaper ones will have all your basics (brisket, bulgolgi, pork belly) and even some offal meat (tongue and intestine both make an appearance) while the premium menus up the meat quality. You can check the full menus on their website here.
The two things that set Bulgolgi house apart the most are what make it the most modern.
First is the bar area, lined with giant TVs and staffed with a very decent bar. There, you can watch sports, have a drink, and — if you're not feeling a full AYCE dinner — order off of a bar menu that's made up of almost entirely Korean-fusion tacos, burritos, burgers and other bar food. Everything tastes fine, but my top recommendation is the burger, whose patty is so wonderfully crusty that it crunches as you bite it.
The second thing that's unique are the grills. Instead of the more old school cast iron deals you find at places like Cham, you'll be cooking on stainless steel circles like those at Gen. The grills are supposed to vent all of the smoke away before it makes it to your hair or clothes, but are only partially effective at Gen because fans can only do so much. But, at Bulgolgi House, they work almost perfectly, thanks in part to the ridiculously tall ceiling.
And while La Palma is on the edge of Orange County and has a pretty large Korean population, its barbecue density is surprisingly low.
So, now if you ever want to gorge yourself on AYCE Korean barbecue before spending the night clubbing in LA, well, you've found your home.
I guess it has a niche after all