After spending so much time seeking out fancy new places, I can sometimes forget to indulge in the goodness that is proper Korean food from time to time. An issue that seems to happen fairly often when living as an expat who mostly hangs out with other expats is that you tend to be surrounded by people who eventually grow tired of the norm and end up looking for other options. As much as I love trying new things while keeping an open mind, there are times when I just want to get back to my Korean roots and grill some meat before making a sloppy lettuce wrap.
Seeing how it had been some time since I last had dinner in the Sangmu area, a good friend of mine invited me to check out a restaurant he had visited and enjoyed quite a bit. Considering how it had been months since I last had Korean BBQ, I was all sorts of excited to see what 볏짚삼겹살 (Byeotjip Samgyupsal) had in store for me.
With a name that literally translates to “Straw Pork”, I arrived knowing that my dinner would be full of pork goodness. When we arrived, I was initially impressed by the sheer amount of space the restaurant had. Not only did it have enough room to seat dozens of people, but the place was also full of actual chairs for us to sit in. As someone who’s not a fan of learning how to walk again after a long dinner, this perk was very much appreciated.
Once we were seated, I took a look at the menu, which came with English translations. As expected, the typical options included different cuts of pork to be grilled at the table. There was also a side menu that offered stews, noodles, and rice. It didn’t take long for us to decide the best course of action would be to order a serving of the Grilled Pork Belly w/ Herb & Garlic (허브갈릭삼겹살), Grilled Big-Sized Pork (황제왕갈비), and the Skirt Meat (갈매기살). I also threw in a bowl of Steamed Egg (활화산계란찜), as I personally love that stuff.
After we placed our orders, it didn’t take long for our table to run out of space as we were ambushed by an assortment of sides and dipping sauces. One thing I really liked about this restaurant was their grill and vent setup, which didn’t hang down from the ceiling and was more off to the side in a way that didn’t awkwardly get in the way. Another major plus for this restaurant was the fact that the sauces and most of the sides could easily be refilled at the self serve bar. When eating with picky people who may not love perilla leaves and enjoy consuming obscene amounts of garlic, this perk is always a winner.
The first part of our dinner to hit the grill was the Grilled Pork Belly w/ Herb & Garlic, which came with thick cuts of seasoned pork belly, as well as potatoes and mushrooms. It was difficult to wait as everything cooked, but it was certainly worth it. As much as I love the traditional method of dipping pieces of pork in a mix of salt and sesame oil, there are times I wish that I could have something more than plain pork. Though the flavor of the herbs was rather subtle, especially when competing with the other aggressive flavors that are typical with Korean BBQ, I enjoyed eat bite. Also, I’ve decided that more restaurants should give me the option to grill potato slices, because they are awesome.
The Grilled Big-Sized Pork was not kidding with such a name. The literal slab of meat was large enough to take up most of the real estate on our grill. Outside of the bone, everything cooked evenly, and it wasn’t nearly as fatty as the pork belly. At around this time, we also received our Steamed Egg, which arrived piping hot and topped with a mix of chopped carrots and chives. The entire thing was soft without being too runny, and seasoned well without being too salty. I may have burned my mouth a few times by excitedly trying to eat too much at once, but as always, it was worth it.
The last of our order to arrive was the Skirt Meat, which is a very popular among locals for being lean, tender, and significantly more flavorful than other cuts of pork. Due to the smaller sizes, everything cooked fairly quickly. It was around this point we realized that the self bar also had desserts and free drinks. Whatever room we had left was quickly filled with fruity teas, cookies, and very confusing potatoes that were somehow both very sweet and way too salty.
Though it’s not a place I’d hit up for dessert, 볏짚삼겹살 turned out to be a nice, casual spot. The large amount of seating room combined with affordable prices and the overall convenience of being able to grab vital parts of the meal without bothering anyone made for a positive experience I think most people who aren’t in the mood to speak Korean would appreciate. Now if only those dessert potatoes could be more of a savory thing..
Address: 광주광역시 서구 치평동 1182-6 (located around the corner from McDonald’s)
Average Price Range: 8,500 to 9,000 per serving