Friday, 2/17/06, 10:00PM
I have one statement for vegetarians: if we weren't supposed to eat meat, then cows wouldn't have evolved to taste so good. Right cows? Right...
For resolute NON-vegetarians, like myself, Soot Bull Jeep is a temple to all things charred and delicious.
Soot Bull Jeep (SBJ from here on) is my favorite Korean BBQ house. Why? Because you cook the meat over real charcoal, which gives it a smoky, charred flavor that you just can't get on a electric grill. That also means that you yourself become smoky and charred-smelling, just like your meat. So when the occasion calls for something less smoky and more elegant (a first date, perhaps), I usually send people to the outdoor patio at Chosun Galbee. Also very good Korean BBQ, and with an ambience that can't be beat.
Back to SBJ.
Like most Korean restaurants, a meal at SBJ begins with banchan, an assortment of various salads and pickles such as steamed spinach (served cold) and kimchi. I love the steamed spinach dish and the pickled radishes at SBJ. But what banchan really makes me feel is pity for the dishwasher: so many tiny plates, so little time. Here's a site that gives you recipes to make your own banchan... I'll have to try the spinach one of these days to see if it's as good as SBJ's.
Along with the banchan comes a delicious salad comprised of lettuce, shredded onions, and a soy type dressing. Brian loves to dip the meat in the salad dressing, so you may want to save the bowl after you down the salad. You also get a bowl of rice and a clear hot soup that has cubes of either boiled radishes or potato or something else entirely. If you know what's in the soup, please enlighten me!
The star of the show is the beef. Without fail, we always order the same two dishes:
Galbee/Bulgalbi (marinated short ribs): $19.99
Bulgogi (marinated steak): $17.99
Sometimes, if we bring a friend or if we're really hungry, we also get the marinated rib eye ($17.99), which comes with a tasty rock salt dipping sauce.
I have not tried any of the chicken or pork or seafood dishes, or any of the noodles or hotpots for that matter. I'm sure they're all delicious, but you will have a hard time convincing me to give up a beef dish for something else.
The empty grill: Inspiration, Anticipation
The beef arrives raw on a big plate, and one of the waitresses usually heaps it onto the grill for you. From there, it's wait and turn. Wait for the meat to cook (patience!), turn the meat to char on the other side.
Sometimes, you might be turning the meat and the waitress comes over, takes the tongs out of your hands and does it for you.
a) a sign of good service
b) an opportunity to be mentored on your technique by the experts, or
c) a friendly suggestion that, hey, you suck at grilling meat, don't let us catch you trying to do it by yourself again
I'm still wavering between b and c.
Once the meat is charred and ready, you have many options. Eat it by itself, eat it with rice, wrap it in lettuce, create an elaborate meat/rice/lettuce/veggie wrap, etc. Me, I like to put each piece on the rice, add some of the bean paste dressing, and scoop up the rice and meat in one bite. Mmmm, mmmm, mmm. Carnivorous heaven.
A few tips:
- Wear washable clothing. Jeans and a t-shirt are totally acceptable, and you will be thankful when you get home.
- Wash your hair before you go to bed. Seriously. It will save you from having to wash all your bedding the next day.
- If you go on the weekends, go in the late afternoon (2-5PM) or in the late evening (after 9:30PM). Otherwise you may have to wait up to a half hour for a table. And believe me, you will be staring people down because you're hungry and their food looks and smells so delicious.
- Parking: much easier during off hours (see above), when the parking lot may actually have spaces available. Otherwise, you'll probably have to park in the neighborhood and walk.
- Cooking your meat: use the tongs, not your chopsticks. Raw meat juice to the mouth, not a good idea (and it's tacky). Feel free to use your chopsticks once the meat is moved to the side of the grill or to your bowl.
- Melon gum: they give it to you when you pay your bill. Not only is it delicious (melon-y goodness!), but it will do amazing things to your breath given all the meat and garlic you just ate.
3136 W Eighth St (between Normandie and Vermont)
Los Angeles, CA 90005