Believe me when I say, not all Korean BBQ are the same. Most people love to frequent AYCE (all you can eat) restaurants — I do too when teenage boys are involved — but more importantly, I will always choose quality over quantity.
While Irvine has a myriad of KBBQ places to choose from, venturing to Garden Grove, or further, means opening up the possibilities to even better options. Recently, we stopped by Eight Korean BBQ in Buena Park, a little spot not far off the 5 fwy situated in a little strip mall. The restaurant specializes in pork belly, notably, eight flavors of pork belly — hence its name.
Since this is our first visit, we decide to go with the house specialty — 8 Flavors Pork Belly Combo ($56.99) which includes: seafood soybean soup, an array of banchan, as well as kimchi fried rice at the end.
We also order Prime Ribeye ($49.99) which is prepared on the grill along with vegetables, kimchi and kongnamul (beansprouts). The meat is perfectly marbled and absolutely gorgeous.
Your server will cook the meat, cut it up, then finish it off with a torch to intensify the char that envelopes the meat.
Once you’re done with this, the grill is cleaned before the first batch of pork is laid out to sear and render.
Original: allows you to taste the quality of pork used unadulterated. Dip in the salt or miso paste if desired.
Red Wine: I was a little skeptical at first, but once I tasted it, I was surprised at how the hints of wine imparts on the pork.
Black Sesame: subtle flavors which isn’t easily distinguishable, but creates a piquant flavor on the pork.
Garlic: this was one of our favorites as we love garlic. Super savory and definitely a must for garlic fiends.
The second batch of pork includes:
Herb: I asked what herbs were used but was met with a smile and how it was a secret. I didn’t press further, but it is reminiscent of herbs de Provence without being overpowering. I really enjoyed this.
Curry: using Japanese curry as its marinade base means you get the flavors without the intensity of say an Indian curry. This was another favorite.
Miso Paste: who doesn’t love miso? The salty umami-filled taste is perfect for the pork belly! This was one of my favorites.
Red Pepper Paste: a house-created gojujang paste, it is a little too sweet for me, but will definitely be a favorite for most people.
Seafood Soybean Soup is one of the best I’ve ever had. The broth is extremely flavorful without being salty. I was pleasantly surprised and was sad how my homemade soybean soup is always too salty.
As always, Korean food means lots of little side dishes to accompany your meal with. There is dduk (rice paper wrap) and ssam-mu (radish wraps); gamja jorim (glazed potatoes); pickled radish and jalapenos; cold tofu; and odeng (fish cake).
Gyeran jjim (steamed egg) should be enjoyed swiftly while the egg is still bubbling and puffy. I love the airy lightness when it initially arrives, but once it starts cooling, the egg will drop and become denser in consistency.
I like to use the ssam-mu to wrap my meat and condiments in before enjoying. I find the radish helps cut the heaviness of the meats. My son prefers the dduk. Our server suggests we try it with both the ssam-mu and dduk together. I find this allows for the most balanced flavors on the palate even though I try to stay away from carbs during the meal so I may indulge in the kimchi fried rice at the end.
Once you’ve finished eating your meats, your server will use the pot containing the seafood soybean soup to make your kimchi fried rice. More kimchi and kongnamul is brought out, along with rice and laver, an ingredient I’d never thought about using in my fried rice, but will now include. It definitely creates another level of umami in the rice.
I can’t stress how awesome our meal was. We can’t wait to return again. I’ve never been a huge fan of pork, but Eight Korean BBQ has definitely changed my mind about that. Go early as the restaurant was packed by the time we were done with our meal.
Eight Korean BBQ
6681 Beach Blvd
Buena Park, CA 90621