Up until last night, I had thought I’ve tried just about every major type of ethnic food, but when my brother asked me when I’d last had Korean I couldn’t even recall a first time. And so I found myself making the trek to Aurora for Korean BBQ at Korean BBQ -SAE Jong Kwan, 2680 S. Havana Street. Once we got there, it was obvious this was going to be a new experience.
My first hint was the small round burner sizzling in the middle of all the tables. My second hint was the menu with the many dishes I’d never heard of such as galbi (marinated beef short ribs) and bulgogi (very thinly sliced beef loin). I let my brother order since he knew what he was doing and simply waited to see what would arrive at the table. The first thing we got was a selection of about 8 different side dishes – kimchi. Most were fairly recognizable when it came to the main ingredients and all were good. One word of advice – if you have to know exactly what you are putting in your mouth, this might not be a good dining option for you.
After eating our fill of the various kimchi offerings, the waitress arrived with a plate of raw meat, leaving it and a small plate of sliced raw garlic and green chilis. It was then our task to cook the meat, give the garlic a little time on the grill, and then use the lettuce leaves to create bite sized pieces of lettuce, meat, garlic, and bean paste. The important part here seems to be trading off cook duties so that one person isn’t busy turning meat while everyone else gets to eat and eat and eat. To top the meal off, you then receive a small glass of some sort of sweetened rice water.
And depending on how important you find it to dine in the culturally correct way, here is a small word of advice. I guess you aren’t supposed to take the large lettuce leaves and make one big lettuce sandwich. You’re supposed to tear off bite-sized pieces of the lettuce and use it to make bite-sized sandwiches. Of course, I did it the wrong way and didn’t find out until I did some research on the web afterwards. Considering the fact that we seemed to be the only non-Koreans in the whole restaurant, I’m sure someone noticed our ignorance.
If you’re up for a new dining experience and consider yourself an adventurous eater, I’d say that a little Korean BBQ should be a part of your future dining plans. Plus, if anyone has already tried Korean BBQ in Denver and has a favorite restaurant, I’d love to get its name and location.