Choi Ga Neh Might Have K-Town’s Best AYCE BBQ Lunch Deal
It only took one visit to Tahoe Galbi for me to rethink my position on the ubiquitous $10 All You Can Eat Korean BBQ lunch. It’s not that I thought I wouldn’t be down with all you can eat Korean BBQ (how could it possibly be bad!?) It was more me lamenting the fact that there weren’t any proper under $10 Korean buffets in Los Angeles. I’m an old school buffet enthusiast, not just for the all you can eat aspect but also for the form itself. Like carts at a dim sum palace, much of the joy I take from eating all I can eat is the buffet line itself. But even though Tahoe converted me to this new way of gorging myself, it was clear it wasn’t going to be the end all be all $10 Korean BBQ spot of my dreams. Room for improvement seemed possible, and it was then I decided I would need to try *all* of the $10 AYCE Korean BBQ spots in Koreatown before I’d be truly satisfied. (You know… for science.)
Back in May Lunch’er “djjewelz” recommended Choi Ga Neh in the ML Forums, so I figured that would be as good a place as any to continue my quest.
Unlike Tahoe, which is like a barn (if barns came with flat screen TVs), Choi Ga Neh is actually pretty tiny… but surprisingly less smokey. You still might want want to burn your clothes after spending an hour plus in there, but it’s not nearly as bad as some of the other Korean BBQ places in K-Town.
As with most things in life, you get what you pay for, and AYCE Korean BBQ is no exception. The higher the price, the better the meat you are going to get. So as a result, most spots that give you a $10 lunch option are going to keep the offerings pretty cheap. Bulgogi and kalbi are replaced by the far more economical brisket and pork belly (and some places, like Tahoe, give you marinated chicken.) Upgrades are usually offered (that’s how they getcha!) but that will usually run you $16+, which is way outside the ML price range. What makes Choi Ga Neh so special is that for $10 you get brisket and pork belly, but their second tier (which adds on tripe, “beef bacon”, and seasoned beef) is only $11! For an extra $1, how could we not?
As is standard at most AYCEKBBQ spots, you get a salad…
…and banchan. None of it was amazing, but it certainly wasn’t bad either.
And just like Tahoe you get the hot egg custard thing gaeran jjim (hot and good, but you share one with the table) and jiggae, which cooks up in the middle of the grill.
But the most important thing is the meat, right?
The meat was sliced a little bit thinner than they do at Tahoe… which is a good thing for the pork belly, but not so much with the brisket (which became pretty decimated by the grill.)
Not sure exactly what cut “beef bacon” is, but it was essentially just like pork belly- but beef. It wasn’t cured or smoked, so bacon isn’t exactly the best name, but we get the point. As for the tripe, I’m normally a big fan- but tripe is something that needs to be cooked very well to be good, and I’m not sure I’m the one to do it. If you have an expert griller in your crew, go for the tripe. If not, skip it. It’s not worth it.
We asked for everything on the first plate, but they left off the “seasoned beef”- so for our second order we made sure they didn’t forget it.
If you like chunks of steak rather than the thinly sliced pieces of brisket, seasoned beef is going to be what puts Choi Ga Neh over the top for you. The meat is still cheap, so it’s not super tender, but it is chunks of steak and is certainly the thing that distinguishes this place from a lot of the other lunch deals in K-Town. It’s definitely worth the extra $1.
And, finally, they bring us dukk (sheets of rice noodle for wrapping the meat) without asking- my new favorite thing about Korean BBQ.
Naengmyeon (cold noodles) comes free with the dinner buffet at Choi Ga Neh, but they’ll give it to you with the lunch buffet for an extra $1. It’s not a great version (after all, it only costs $1!) but if you’re a big fan, it’s just another thing that further serves to distinguish CGN from the competition.
So if the given the choice between CGN and Tahoe, I’d probably go with CGN. I like how small the place is, and the extra stuff you get $1 more. It’s less smokey, and a bit easier to get the waitstaff’s attention (which is very important if you want to win the game.) The meat isn’t better, and neither is the banchan or the jjagae, but sometimes, in matters of all you can eat, variety trumps quality.
So… which place is next?
- I love how they have an $11 option!
- You don’t usually get chunks of steak on the cheap ayce lunch deals
- It’s small, so it’s a bit less intimidating
- Not nearly as smokey as you would expect
- They will let you do the ayce by yourself (although it costs $20 instead of $10).
- Naengmyeon for just $1 extra!
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I would rather pay more, and get a higher quality meat
- The naengmyeon isn’t that great.
- I don’t like so much fat on my meat. Maybe cheap ayce Korean BBQ isn’t for me
- Wait… I have to cook the tripe myself? That’s not going to happen
Choi Ga Neh, 3916 Wilshire Blvd, 213-382-8988
Parking Tip: Free parking is available in a lot behind the building (Off of Ingraham).