Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Avoiding the Iron Bowl Harangue at Arirang...Almost
You just about cannot go anywhere in this here Gump without hearing expert analysis of the upcoming Iron Bowl. I don't know about you, but I've about heard enough of "The team that establishes the run will win" or "If it's close in the fourth quarter it might go either way" or "Alabama's defense will stop Auburn's offense." So I started thinking--for me a dangerous task--where could I go to lunch and not be bothered by the mindless blathering cliches about the upcoming "Game of the Week, Month, Year or Century?" Heck, while I was writing this I got solicited for squares on an Iron Bowl game score grid!
Then I passed Korean food hub where one finds the best Korean grocery in the area and Arirang Korean BBQ which, like the Gangnam Grill, sits just across the by-pass within a scones throw of the Gump. It hit me: Do they also eat guinea pig? No, seriously, the thought crossed my pea brain that there--in a Korean buffet restaurant--was a place where I might be able to enjoy some good bulgogi and for at least an hour avoid the clutter and chatter about armored SEC wankerball.
So I pulled into the parking lot and noticed that all the windows were covered with pictures of food and Korean (I presumed) writing. Unlike our friend Chairman Meow, who lived in Korea as a child (and wrote a great article in the Made Paper about Korean restaurants in the Gump you can read by clicking here), I had never been to a Korean BBQ buffet before. I was a little apprehensive but went inside where the first sign I saw said: "Korean BBQ 11.99. No BBQ 7.99." While I tried to figure out what you got with "No BBQ" a very nice Asian lady asked me in English how many and lead me to a table with a hole in the middle--no not a hole. It was actually a round convex metal grill with a temperature control.
"BBQ?" came the question. Quickly I calculated the cost between no BBQ and BBQ to be about $4 and reasoned that something was better than nothing. I answered in the affirmative.
"First time?" came the next question. "Yes," I said honestly and nervously.
"I help. Go get some meat," she said as she turned on the grill in the middle and it began to glow red through the openings to the heat source below.
So I left the table and went to the buffet. I started at the meat side (which I later saw was wrong). I piled one plate with brisket, chicken, marinated beef and pork. I then filled another plate for vegetables. I returned for bowls of fruit and steamed rice.
Sitting down at my table I began to place the ingredients on the grill and started to cook. My waitress noticed I have missed the sauces--duck, hot, brah and blah braa blah--and brought me four in plastic tubs and showed me how to dip the thin cooked slices with the onions/vegetables and then dip them together in one of the sauces before devouring them. They were really delicious. It was also fun to do your own cooking right there at your table. I noticed the same silly dance song replayed over and over but it was a relief from the bombardment of Christmas music and football.
As I looked around I noticed I was the only non-Asian in the place. Everyone was talking in a foreign language. The table had signs posted in Korean and English that warned that they were not responsible if you stupidly failed to cook your own meat carefully and that you were free to take all you wanted from the buffet but if you left more than an ounce, you would be fined. The amount of the fine was not stated. With regard to that admonition, the Korean underneath it must have said: "This does not apply to Koreans" because when the mother/son unit beside me left, their table remained piled with uneaten or cooked food. I had watched them eat plates and plates of food before they left also so it wasn't left because it wasn't tasty. It was very tasty--especially with the sauces.
I went back to the well several times gradually getting more and more adventuresome. Never could bring myself to try the "large intestines" but really enjoyed the kimchi. Not sure if I was supposed to heat it up or not but it was good cold.
As I took a break from cooking I again noticed that, sure enough, everyone appeared to be Korean and they were all talking Korean. I never heard the words Auburn or Alabama or Iron Bowl during the entire meal. I smiled and finished my meal. Pricey at $14 with a soft drink, but a real change of pace and respite from the soon to be gorged upon Thanksgiving food and football hoopla. That was until I whipped out my Auburn Spirit Card to pay the tab. The hostess looked at the card, ran it through the machine and handed it back to me with the receipt and a wry smile.
"Auburn no win. No defense."