Full disclosure: I'm no expert in Korean food. In fact, before my recent dinner at Korea House BBQ, I barely knew what kimchi was. (For the uninitiated, it's pickled cabbage.) But my companion and I have iron stomachs, not to mention iron wills -- have you seen the Friday-night traffic lately in Fort Worth's Cityview area? -- so we were determined to make our first foray into Korean cuisine a good experience.
Korea House did not disappoint. Located next door to the popular Lone Star Oyster Bar and occupying a storefront that has seen a carousel of tenants, the new restaurant belies the standard strip-center vibe. Painted mint green and white and strewn with rattan table-dividers, the dining room has a casual-yet-refined decor. Couple that with its obsequiously charming wait staff, and it proved to be the perfect environment for a culinary adventure.
Out of three appetizers on the menu, we dipped our collective toes into somewhat familiar territory and ordered the fried dumplings (Goon Man Doo) for $6.99. Garnished with finely sliced cabbage topped with a spicy-mayolike sauce and served alongside a soy and chile-based condiment, the half-moon dumplings were tender and crisp, stuffed with bits of pork and scallions. Our entree into Korean food was off to a good start.
For our main entree, we went with the Dol Sot Galbi Jim, or marinated beef in a hot plate ($13.99).
When the main course was delivered to the table, we realized happily that we did not under-order. (Again, new territory.) Even though we were only splitting one entree, the beef hot plate was a hearty offering of brisketlike cubes of meat rendered in a tomato-based sauce with assorted vegetables. Two bowls of soup, miso and cabbage also came with the entree. But it was the accompaniment that was a sight to behold. Our waitress brought eight (!) bowls of additional foods to eat alongside the meat. To me, the presentation was reminiscent of Indonesian cuisine, or more accurately, the experience of the Rijsttafel, whereupon approximately 8 million tiny plates of food are deposited on your table and you are summarily expected to eat every one of them. (Which is OK when you're in Amsterdam, but that's a story for another day.)
Anyway, Earth to Anna, back in Fort Worth ... these eight small bowls contained two kinds of seaweed (dried and pickled), kimchi, eggplant, tofu, pickled onions and vegetables, egg omelet and a handful of black beans. Add a couple of sides of sticky white rice, and we were in business, mixing and matching the salty and sweet tastes to the beef. The latter was the meal's sole misstep, albeit a large one; the cubed meat was a bit dry and wanting for flavor.
Some aspects to Korean food fit under the heading of acquired tastes. Me, I wasn't too much into the nutty, sweet black beans, the kimchi or the cabbage soup. But our overall experience at Korea House BBQ was positively enlightening, generally tasty and universally cheap (if you choose to split an entree). That's not something you can say about very many restaurants around these parts. And as the half-full dining room of Korean-Americans seemed to attest, much of the restaurant's food is worthy of praise .