Tahoe Galbi is a Good Primer for $10 AYCE Korean BBQ
As much as I love, and have done serious research on, all you can eat buffets across the country, there is one gaping hole in my canon of face stuffing experiences: all you can eat Korean BBQ. Every time I drive through K-Town I stare lovingly at all the signs touting meat feasts of epic proportions- and the best part is, a ton of them are under $10. And yet, for some reason, I’ve never been able to the pull trigger. Part of it is my allegiance to the true all you can eat buffet (like Hansong), where all the food is laid in one giant smorgasbord, ready to be defeated at the hands of my rather large gut. Admittedly a real all you can eat master wouldn’t let that technicality stand in his or her way, so I’m forced to admit that the real reason I haven’t been to one of these places is sheer intimidation. Not only are there too many places to choose from, but I wasn’t sure exactly what happens when one enters one of these places. Yes, many have $9.99 lunchtime options- but with upgrades avaialble (that allow you a better quality of meat) was the $10 ayce Korean BBQ deal really worth it?
So, when a Korean friend offered to accompany me to one of his favorite spots, Tahoe Galbi (on Wilton & Wilshire), I jumped at the chance. Not just to fill the gaping hole in my all you can eat buffet resume, but also the big gaping hole that pops up in my stomach every day around 11:45am.
Most all you can eat Korean BBQ places that offer a $9.99 lunch deal give you a very limited selection of meats (usually only 3) and Tahoe Galbi is no exception. Brisket, pork belly, and marinated chicken are your options, so if you’re looking for industry standards like bulgogi, or the namesake galbi, you’ve got to go somewhere else or pay more money.
Service is slow, so the key is to not be shy. You’re entitled to everything you see below, and none of it costs extra… so if they don’t bring it to you- ask.
After you tell the waiter what meats you want, they load up your table with a large salad, the requisite panchan, and sauces for your meat. The sweet-ish paste-like sauce in the dish with the garlic and jalapenos is called daenjang, and they will most definitely bring that to you. But we had to ask for the dish with the sesame oil (ggirim) and salt. The panchan is all fine, and the salad provided a nice contrast to all the grilled meats- but don’t fill up on that stuff too much, especially if you want to win the game.
This was the first plate of brisket and pork belly they brought out for us. They turn the grill on for you, but you’re expected to cook your own food (at least we were… maybe because one of us was Korean. If you’re white, perhaps they help?)
As far as I can tell there is no right way to do Korean BBQ, but the pork belly is far thicker than the brisket, so if you want to start eating right away you should probably toss the brisket on first. You can also throw the garlic and jalapenos on there for flavor (or not).
You can ask for rice, but the more fun thing to get (and the reason my Korean friend loves Tahoe so much) is the dukk- these thin sheets of rice noodle that are perfect for rolling up meat. We had to ask for these (and not all places have them.)
So good. Mix and match sauces, throw panchan in there. Whatever you like. There are no rules or guidelines (as far as I could tell.) Everybody has their own way of doing it.
I was warned that chicken was a waste of space, and normally I would agree… but it’s all you can eat! Clearly I had to try it… you know… for science. It was the one of the three meats that was “marinated”, but it might have just been sesame oil- I’m not positive. The chicken was fine, but the brisket is definitely the way to go.
For $9.99 ayce, you’re obviously not getting the greatest pork belly of all time, but it was good enough- and provided a fatty, textural contrast to the brisket. But be the most careful flipping this one on the grill. As the fat renders, the potential for flare ups is there. Once you get it crispy on both sides, use the scissors they give you to cut it into little 1-2 inch chunks. Good stuff!
We were also given gaeran jjim, this savory egg custard kind of thing, and ddaenjang jjigae, a soup/stew thing with tofu. Neither were worth filling up on, but it did make me feel like we were getting a ton of food for $10. Once your done eating the meats on the initial plate, ring the buzzer on the table (it’s on the inside ledge on the partition that separates you from the other table) and order more.
Sorry there aren’t more photos of cooked meat, but sadly I was… uh… busy. You know, stuffing my face. It really is amazing how much food you get for $10, and most importantly it’s a ton of fun. I’m sure that once you upgrade to the $15+ ayce Korean BBQ places it’s tough to go back (after all, brisket is no match for galbi) but for the price it’s kind of hard to beat. I didn’t get the gut feeling (pun intended) that Tahoe is the end all be all of $9.99 spots, so I will continue to try other places (as if there was any doubt!) Next stop? This spot, recommended by Lunch’er “djjewelz” in the forums.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- All you can eat brisket, pork belly, chicken, banchan and more for just $10? How can you beat that?
- Tahoe has dukk. That’s a huuuuuge plus.
- Did I mention it’s only $10? And it’s all you can eat!?
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- Service is iffy, and I hate being pushy or having to ask for stuff.
- You get what you pay for! I’d rather pay a bit more and get higher quality meats.
- The meat isn’t marinated. I much prefer bulgogi to this stuff…
- I only eat white meat chicken
- The panchan is just average. (Especially compared to Mapo!)
- You leave smelling like a chimney.
- No friendless losers accepted at this all you can eat buffet! 2 is the minimum number of diners for the ayce deal.
Tahoe Galbi, 3986 Wilshire Blvd, 213-365-9000