Sometimes, it can be difficult to see a restaurant you love close down. In downtown Gwangju, this happens far more often than I’d like to see. It can be a bit infuriating to see these places get replaced by a clothing shop, or worse, another phone store. As a result, I tend to grow more curious than anything when I see a new restaurant replace what I assume was a restaurant that had recently failed.
This ended up being just that scenario when 중앙닭갈비 (Joogang Dakgalbi) opened. Though I was initially sad to see that this new restaurant had replaced a personal favorite of mine, it did give me an excuse to check the place out one night when a couple of friends and I were feeling particularly hungry.
Once we arrived, we were immediately seated. The manager of the restaurant seemed eager to answer any questions we had, and even recommended the Boneless Chicken option on the menu. Before I even got a glimpse of the list of what was available, I couldn’t help but notice the small buffet that stood in the middle of the restaurant. Despite us arriving fairly late, there still appeared to be a decent amount of food left. Since we were feeling curious, hungry, and didn’t mind shelling out the extra 2,000 won per person for the buffet, we added it onto our order of Boneless Chicken with 모듬사리 (modeumsali), which was an assortment of toppings that included cheese, ramen noodles, ham, rice cake, and sujebi (hand torn noodles).
After our order was taken, we were quick to hit up the buffet area, which was filled with different salads, fruits, snacks, and desserts. Though we didn’t walk away with anything too memorable from the 2,000 won buffet, the small samplings of what we got served as decent appetizers while we waited for our food. We also received some cold seaweed soup and different sides at this point.
By the time I polished off my second plate of corn, cold pasta, and nacho chips with cheese, the main dish arrived. Unlike some of the other dakgalbi places I’ve visited, the food here came fully prepared and ready to eat. In the middle rested a pool of melting cheese, and surrounding it was a combination of chicken, vegetables, all of the extra toppings we got, and the usual red sauce that brought everything together. After each bite, what ended up surprising me the most was the lack of heat. Perhaps it’s due to me having lived in Korea for so long, but it was a little odd to have dakgalbi that didn’t taste spicy (to me) in the least. My friends, who aren’t huge fans of spicy food, seemed to appreciate being able to taste their food without fear. The overall flavor of the dish was pretty decent, though I personally wouldn’t get it with the ham again. While I do love processed meat products as much as the next person, the flavors were easily dulled by the presence of stronger flavors, leaving the unnecessary protein with little taste and an unappealing texture.
We were quite full by the time our skillet of food was cleared, but we had made sure to leave enough room for dessert. The buffet didn’t offer much when it came to sweets, but the little we did get was quite nice. I was personally a fan of the fruity gelatin, which came in green and red (still not sure what the actual flavors were). The freshness combined with the sweetness proved to be a nice way to finish off an otherwise heavy meal.
Overall, 중앙닭갈비 offered us a fair experience for an even fairer price. Though it will never truly replace the old restaurant it literally replaced, it still turned out to be a nice place for a late dinner with friends.
Address: 광주 동구 중앙로160번길 15-3 (located by the large Baskin Robbins in downtown)
Hours: 11:00AM to 10:30PM
Average Price Range: 8,500 to 15,000 per person