Saturday, January 15, 2011

Holy Bulgogi!

Bulgogi literally means "fire meat" in Korean and the bulgogi at Cham Korean BBQ was definitely that! 

I was about to write that the best thing about this restaurant was that I felt so nourished and that I had had a really healthy meal when I left, but then I realized that a big part of the experience here (and yes it's an experience) is the friendly atmosphere and being an active participant in your food preparation.  We were greeted and "schooled" by all three members of this family owned business and they all had an uncanny way of explaining the food and it's preparation in a way that didn't make you feel like a McDonald's junkie who had never eaten anything slightly ethnic or that they had probably explained this a thousand times before.  You can tell that they are super excited about their food and really proud (rightfully so) that the Mom makes all the banchan (side dishes) from scratch along with all the sauces!  The sweet/sour sauce is called marriage proposal sauce because she has received 5 marriage proposals after men tasted this sauce!  The son took the time to show us different combinations of meat and vegetables and how he liked to wrap them and I was absolutely hooked on wrapping everything in the thinly sliced pickled daikon radish...yum!

The bulgogi was spicy and wonderfully full of flavor without being too salty which I have experienced before.  The selection of meats that you can cook on your own personal little grill is awesome with pork belly topping the list for me, pork jowl a close second and who can forget tripe?  Okay maybe I exaggerated with with the tripe thing...not really a favorite!  Maybe there is some other way to cook tripe that is good but throwing it on the grill just turns it into a tasteless rubberband.  I especially loved the dried spicy squid and of course the kimchi and was so busy trying all the banchan that I think we overcooked our first round of meat. Our clue was when it started to smoke and the owner came over and pulled it off the grill for us saying, "oh oh oh this is done"!  Our second round of meat consisted of the beef rib tips, calamari and of course more bulgogi.  Wrapping the bulgogi in lettuce with some onion salad and a generous swipe of the marriage proposal sauce is a must!

The place was pretty busy for an off time on a Saturday afternoon so I have a feeling it gets pretty packed during the prime time.  Obviously this wouldn't be the place to bring a small child who can't sit still with a hot grill involved or maybe that is how you get them to sit still...they will only touch it once!  Lessons learned the hard way last the longest!  There are no tables for a large group and that is the only thing I would hope they would add as this would be fun with a large group having several grills going.

Personally I love this type of eating, getting creative and letting your palate and taste buds go crazy!  The sort of unthought of benefit is that it is really healthy.  Mostly lean meats, fish and vegetables so unless you go nuts on white rice there is no reason to feel guilty when you leave here feeling stuffed!  Speaking of leaving, the finishing touch on this great meal was the owner walking us to the door and waving as we left, just as if we had visited him at home.  Hmmm...I wonder where he lives and if they want to adopt me?
Go visit them it's worth the drive just not on Mondays when they are closed!
10518 S Tacoma Way SW

Lakewood, WA 98499
(253) 584-2287

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