Corea Kalbi Doesn’t Cut It

Marlon Castillo/New University

What’s that? A good Korean BBQ joint in Irvine? When two Korean bros from The New University heard about Corea Kalbi, it was in their blood to seek out hunks of hot Korean meat. Here is their review, in dialogue format.

Young Kim: At this point, I’m still trying to process whether this place is worth the damage it has done to my wallet. If you’re looking for an all-you-can-eat Korean BBQ restaurant that’s worth its buck, it’s best to stick with the popular Gen Korean BBQ in Tustin or Star BBQ in Garden Grove.

Jun Im: Yeah dude, $28 for an AYCE dinner is quite a toll on my hard-earned money. But I have to admit, the food was really good.

YK: I agree – to a certain degree. The brisket point is the first dish I order − in my BBQ ritual, to get my appetite started. Sadly, the meat was tough and bland, leaving me quite worried as to what I should expect from the next dishes we ordered.

JI: But we shouldn’t have been that worried. The 8-ounce rib-eye steak they slapped onto the grill was cooked to pink, juicy perfection and definitely made up for the brisket.

YK: I, however, was still not satisfied because I was craving  light, easy-to-cook meat that the brisket failed to live up to. So I went for the prime beef crown tongue. Now that dish certainly built up my appetite. Its sweet and salty flavor went well with its tender texture that melted in my mouth.

JI: Along with the tongue, we also ordered the steamed egg and the marinated boneless ribs. The steamed egg we could have skipped because it was watery.

The ribs, compared to most other KBBQ places, tasted a bit sweeter than standard. I remember being a bit disappointed when we learned that they didn’t serve rice paper …

YK: But the thinly sliced pickled radishes were a solid alternative. They counteracted the oiliness and saltiness of the boneless rib when wrapped around it. They also went well with the pork belly. When the pork was cooked to golden perfection, the flavor was solid but it didn’t stand out from the ones you find anywhere else. I still believe O Dae San in Koreatown is the king of pork belly.

JI: Damn it, I’m getting hungry again. Anyways, the food we got was looking all right, but that all changed when the server brought out the LA cut kalbi and, of course, the boneless short plate. LA cut was not overwhelmingly sweet, but addicting enough to munch on repeatedly. Now, when it came to the short plate, the thought in my mind was, “Sweet Jesus, this is amazing!” The marinated slices of beef practically lit on fire when sizzling over the grill, and we could literally taste the fire as it entered our mouths. That was definitely the highlight of the meal.

YK: If I had a reason to come back to this place, it would be for the short plate. If I were to give a grade to all the meats, the brisket would get a D, the rest a B, but the short plate a sweet Jesus A!

JI: We also got the beef honeycomb tripe for fun, but the experience was … forgettable. I felt as though I was eating a furry animal while it was still alive. I guess tripe isn’t for everyone.

YK: You know what else was forgettable? The side dishes. Definitely underwhelming compared to the infinite dukbokki at Gen or those potato salads at Star.

JI: Yeah, the side dishes didn’t make much of an impression. The ice cream was good, though. They were really fancy with the presentation, putting a large scoop into a martini glass and topping it with a corn chip and mint leaves. Too bad it wasn’t complimentary though.

YK: The one thing I truly appreciated was the service. The old ladies working there were so nice to us and quick to give us what we ordered.

JI: Yeah, the experience was great overall. Too bad it was expensive.

YK: It was pleasant, but I’m more willing to sacrifice good service and the short plate to eat at Gen or Star.


Jun’s Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Young’s Rating: 3 out of 5