Meet Bulgogi. Literally meaning “fire meat”, this internationally known dish seems to have taken a backseat to pork down here in Gwangju, possibly due to the high cost of beef. As a result, it’s been difficult to find more than a couple of places that specialize in this classic favorite. After a bit of searching, it’s sad to think that the most obvious place ended up being one of the better spots I’ve tried during the years I’ve been here.
I recently went to Bulgogi Brothers with my best friend, who just happened to be visiting me from the states. We had been walking around Sangmu for what seemed like hours, trying to find Korean food that didn’t seem too heavy or Westernized. As an American, my friend was already familiar with bulgogi, and since I was drawing a blank on where we could eat for lunch, we ended up at the classy joint that I had always passed by but never actually visited.
There was a collective sigh of relief when we saw that we had made it in time to sample the more affordable lunch menu. It was nice that the restaurant had placed an English and Korean menu outside, as we both felt fairly poor and under-dressed once we walked into the classy, empty building.
Though the menu had some delicious looking A La Carte items, our focus was on the lunch specials that seemed to offer a fair amount of variety for the right price. On the menu were different bulgogi sets that had American beef as the cheapest option while offering Korean beef as the priciest. Each set came with the porridge of the day, an order of the Grilled Beef Brisket Salad with Oriental Dressing, Bibimbap with Soybean Paste Stew, Bulgogi, and our choice of Tea or Coffee. Though there were different sets, we were told that the both of us had to order the same thing, as everything would be cooked in the same pan. As a result, we ended up going with the Korean Beef Bulgogi with Assorted Mushrooms Set.
Once we placed our order, we received a plate of puffed shrimp chips. Though there was probably a proper way to enjoy these, I just ended up munching on them as they were throughout my meal. Before long, we received the first portion of our set, which was a small bowl of sweet potato porridge. Though the color wasn’t the most appetizing, the taste and texture were pretty decent without lingering too long in the realm of sweet and chunky.
Next to arrive at the table were a number of delicious and fresh sides, as well as the meaty salad that ended up being one of the biggest highlights of our meal. The combination of assorted greens, thin slices of beef, tangy dressing, and rice crackers made for a delicious salad that we couldn’t get enough of. If more fusion dishes could be like this, I certainly wouldn’t mind.
After we were done devouring our salad, the main course made its appearance. In a large pan was a pile of marinated beef, glass noodles, some greens, and at least four different types of mushrooms. Even before it cooked, the smell was divine. The aroma simply grew more tempting as everything cooked through. Before long, we were left with pieces of tenderly cooked beef and vegetables that had soaked up a fair amount of the sweet broth it was cooked in. My favorite aspect, surprisingly, were the glass noodles had a soft, addictive texture that wasn’t too soft or chewy.
While our meat was cooking, we received our rice with a side of soybean stew. This part of the meal came with instructions and an extra bowl that contained some vegetables. We were told to add our rice to the big bowl, then to mix in small amounts of the soybean stew to mix in. If we wanted things saltier, we’d just need to add more. I was initially hesitant, as I hadn’t actually liked any form of soybean stew since I was a kid. Despite my reservations, the mixture ended up being absolutely delicious. The stew was actually more savory than it was salty, and I probably mixed in way too much at the end.
Overall, our classy and pricey meal was one we enjoyed quite a bit. As we sipped our tea, all we could talk about was how delicious everything was, as well as how the price seemed to be justified for what we got. I personally don’t see myself returning on my own, but this restaurant is definitely worth bringing visiting friends and family members to, especially if they’re looking for that Korean experience without being exposed to the scarier, more pungent aspects. I highly recommend arriving in time for lunch, as I’d hate to imagine how much the dinner courses would have hurt our wallets.
Address: 광주광역시 서구 치평동 1243-1 신환빌딩 1층 (within walking distance from the Uncheon Reservoir)
Hours: 11:30AM to 9:30PM (11:30AM to 5:00PM for lunch)
Average Price Range: 13,900 to 22,900 per person for lunch sets