Oz Korean BBQ
3343 Bradshaw Road Sacramento, CA
I love Korean food. Some of my earliest and happiest memories involve it: dipping crisp-fried yakimandu into soy sauce full of floating green scallions, chewy strips of spicy squid, fermenting kimchi tossed on top of almost anything. California has proved to be a Korean food afficinados dream: even Sacramento brims with Korean joints, small and fancy, fast-food and grill your own, endless purveyors of kimchi! (Yay!) You can buy kimchi at the grocery store here. I eat it often.
My favorite Korean place here in Sacramento is OZ Korean Barbeque. Located somewhat outside of town, it's a big restaurant in a big edifice of a building, adorned with big scary looking smoke-stacks to let off the smoke - coming from the tabletop grills inside. The entry way is dramatic and rather gorgeous - a brush painter came in to produce a gigantic painting of Tahoe in the Asian style that snakes up the walls. The dining room itself is big, stone and wood paneled, and noisy. Eating Korean food is not a quiet or austere art. It should be done in groups and you should order beer. (OZ is happy to hook you up.)
Panchan or Korean side-dishes appear quickly. The selection changes often, but you'll usually get at least five dishes - expect kimchi, squid strips, seaweed salad, marinated bean sprouts, pickled cabbage and jalapeno, radish, and other such delectables. You're in luck - refills are free and endless. (I ground through three on my last visit. I like kimchi.)
You should sit at a grill-table. It's fun to grill your own meat, and OZ's galbi (marinated short ribs) and bulgogi (marinated beef sirloin) are high quality and delicious. Don't miss the Tokyo X, which is the polite name for marinated pork belly, that fatty and delicious food. You can also get chicken and seafood to grill on the tabletop,but both strike me as unnecessarily healthy.
However, you should also order off the menu, for one needs accompaniments for the orgy of meat you are about to engage in. Japchae, or sauteed glass noodles with beef and vegetables (pictured above) are just plain wonderful - slippery, beefy, easy to eat. Stone Age Bi-Bim-Bap, a dish of sirloin, egg, vegetables, and pickle served over rice in a crackling hot stone bowl is also excellent. The rice caramelizes merrily away at the bottom of the stone vessel, and once you mix up the slightly burned rice with the toppings and the bean paste....perfect.
Don't miss the soup. Korean soup tends to be red hot, literally and figuratively, and filled with delicious silken tofu, vegetables, and the protein of your choice. I love OZ's Korean "cioppino" filled with various unlucky creatures of the sea, floating in a super spicy broth with tofu, garlic, and enoki mushrooms - scrumptious.
Seafood is a winner here. Begin your meal with the seafood pajun, an eggy pancake filled with squid, shrimp and crab along with vegetables, dipped in a sweet soy sauce. Finish with the squid pan fry as pictured above - a burbling cauldron filled with spicy hot bean paste, vegetables, and squid tentacles. It's absolutely addictive and tastes distinct from anything other cuisines might offer.
If you're in the mood for Asian food and are growing increasingly sick of eating Thai food again again again, you owe it to yourself to try Korean food. Experience the wonders of sticky bean paste and glass noodles and grilled beef. Eat some kimchi and be unabashed about the toxic garlic breath you will provoke. OZ serves food that is worth social censure for. (Or bring your friends to eat kimchi with you, and then no one will be bothered. That's a good plan.)