Monday, February 25, 2008

Noodle Town

Chief very generously treated us to dinner on Friday night. I haven't really had a lot of Korean BBQ in San Diego, largely because it can be quite expensive and it's hard to risk that kind of money on a bad meal. Noodle Town was definitely had plenty of bang for all the bucks. Fantastic staff. Friendly and extremely attentive, it definitely added to the convivial mood at the table.

The restaurant itself doesn't have grills, but 4 months ago, they added a BBQ patio. It seems you have to ask to be seated at the patio. In fact, it's not readily obvious that there is one, as the patio's fence is covered with bamboo fencing, blocking the view from the parking lot. It's accessed by a side door behind the cash register that splits off into the patio and the kitchen.

Each round table, about 4 feet in diameter and less than 3 feet high, is ringed with backless stools. Quite crowded and vaguely uncomfortable after a while, because you eat dinner hunched over the table. Definitely not a place for weak backs or low-rise jeans.

The panchan consisted of kimchee, seaweed, pickled daikon/carrots, and marinated onions.

The dipping sauces were oil, reddish thick chili sauce, and soy sauce with slices of chilis.

Chief also ordered tofu steamed in a cast-iron bowl (excellent) and octopus braised in a spicy broth (a bit too chewy, but very good). The octopus was devoured before I could photograph it, but here's a spoonful of the tofu.

The meat is incredibly good. We started with thick slices of black pork belly (left side of plate), which had tender layers of meat in between the rich layers of fat. Once grilled, the fat was smooth and delicious. On the same plate as the belly were strips off fatty beef. I'm not sure about the cut, but they were long and thin slices with a thick strip of fat in the middle (right side).

Next came slices of beef tongue (top of pile). Thinly, but not too thinly, sliced, they had a bit of resistance to the bite and were extremely flavorful. Thick slices of skirt steak and ribeye came next (front, on the bottom). Lean cuts, but they didn't toughen up when grilled. We went for seconds of the pork belly and tongue.

I should note that none of the cuts were marinated. At most, there was a tiny drizzle of oil to keep the meat from sticking to the grill. Every dish came with a thick slice of onion, which they used to season the grill before plopping the meat on it.

Rice is ordered separately, which were large bowls. Good thing, because I like lots of rice. All of the meat dishes were piled on a small side table. Chief ordered a small bottle of Korean vodka. It tastes antiseptic (I admit to being a bit of a lightweight) and is an excellent start to an evening of copious meat and chili consumption for those who can handle it.

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