Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Crossing the RED LINE Gangnam Style

[Ed Note 5/29/2015: Looks like Gangnam has bitten the dust]

The leaders of Lunch in the Gump have previously declared the Eastern Bypass to be the red line boundary of the Gump over which no self-respecting member of LITG should cross without changing the calculus of supporting our local mid-town restauranteurs.  Yet, in the past our leaders have ignored the red line in the asphalt as other members have brazenly visited terrific places like Wishbone Cafe or D'Road and lived to blog about it.  This has obviously weakened our foreign policy.  However, never before had we, the elite Gump Guinea Pig Squeal Team Six*, ever been asked to venture into West Shorter until we received our orders to try the new Gangnam Grill which recently opened just across the bypass from the Gump.

Steeling our nerves and with our muzzles all a'twitch, we passed through the busy intersection cameras without triggering the flash that leaves a record.  There in the former Hooter's building--Hooter's being the bane of fine dining, women's liberation and a non-Gump chain (good riddance)--was the new and well-signed Gangnam Korean Grill & Bar.  The interior decor was very stylish and totally changed from what I imagined to be the tacky raw wood of the interior of a Hooters.  Chic all the way.  My only problem was the markings on the bathrooms caused me to mistake the ladies room for the men's room.  Thankfully, there was no one home and no one noticed but me.  An international incident was avoided.

What is "Gangnam" you ask?  Well, according to a lot of unsubstantiated internet chatter, it is a section of Seoul, Korea south of the Han river ("Gang"+ "nam") where there are lots of glitzy clothing stores and restaurants serving Korean "bulgogi".  The area was made famous by the Korean pop star Psy(cho) and the video: "Gangnam Style," the title of which we incorporated into our little report of this date.

The real question should be: What is Korean barbeque? That's a good question. Most people don't know what Korean BBQ is -- even we the GGP's who just had it and, I suspect, even Koreans themselves!

The phrase "Korean BBQ" was made up by Koreans who live here in the States.   It was a way for Korean restaurant owners to advertise what they were selling. Americans are less likely to understand what "bulgogi" or "bulgalbi" is. Not only is it hard to pronounce, it doesn't even sound good to eat. The phrase "Korean BBQ" fixed all that.  People understood what is was, albeit wrongly, and it sounds pretty good too.

Currently, what most Korean restaurants mean by "Korean BBQ"--and what the Gangnam Grill apparently subscribes to -- is any meat -- beef, pork, chicken, or seafood (squid & shrimp) -- that is marinated in a Korean sauce and cooked over an open fire.  The Gangnam Grill even includes vegetables under Korean BBQ.

I ordered the pork (I cannot pronounce or spell the Korean name) for lunch and was soon brought what seemed like 12 little bowls of various spices, vegetables, chest nuts etc.  Here, a picture is worth a thousand words:

Actually, it was 12 bowls.  Any idea what they are?
(Notice I was not wearing my eye protection)
Although the waiter was very nice and attentive, he did not look Korean and I was pumped up with too much testosterone to ask any questions about what was in the bowls or what I was supposed to do with them.  Fortunately, as I sat there pondering the 12 little bowls, the place began to fill with persons driving Hyundai's and appearing Korean.  A pretty good sign I would say.  My international Squeal Team Six training allowed me to overhear snippets of their conversations in Korean.  I snickered when I caught and translated a comment about me: "Oppa? What's with the little furry dude butchering the chop sticks?"  Of course, I never let on I spoke pigeon Korean and it is true I have a hard time with the sticks.

Anyway, I watched what others were doing trying to determine what I should do but they were mostly women and they were not ordering what I ordered.  I fell back on my training.  Logically, they would not bring out these little dishes before the meat dish for no reason.  So I began trying to eat them although I honestly had no idea what some of them were.  Actually I could only recognize the trusty onions.  Nevertheless, I tried them all and was pleasantly surprised at the variety of flavors--mostly all interesting and pleasant.

The stars of the show: pork, soup and rice on a sizzling platter
In due time the waiter appeared with a sizzling platter of shredded marinated pork and vegetables, with a cup of a tangy soup and little silver bowl of white rice.  Since I had not eaten all that was in the little appetizer bowls, I started mixing in the contents of the bowls with the hot meat and added rice.  The mixture of flavors was refreshing and new to my relatively unsophisticated pallet and very delicious.  For the money, I enjoyed a very fine lunch as I sat in a swanky restaurant looking back across the DMZ into the Gump.

I have double-checked with the trusty Lunch in the Gump crowd on Facebook and several of them have been raving about the place.  Entries on Urban Spoon and Yelp were also positive.  So, after the normal incubation period with no adverse gastronomic effects noted, I can release this report to you as a recommendation to try Korean "BBQ" Gangnam Style.  No animals were harmed during this investigation except for perhaps one pig.

*For more information on the fearless and expendable Squeal Team Six, click here and read the ASPCA Notice below.

Gangnam Grill & Bar on Urbanspoon


  1. Bought time we recognized the Korean influence on Lunch in the Gump. Thanks Squeak!