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    Post #1 - August 25th, 2005, 10:58 pm
    Post #1 - August 25th, 2005, 10:58 pm Post #1 - August 25th, 2005, 10:58 pm
    Monday evening after several options for dinner panned out, I ended up in Chicago with the tentative plan to go to Tank Noodle. We rang up RST as we were approaching Argyle hoping to enjoy his company as we dined. RST is quite knowledgeable about food, knows lots of places and the conversation always begins, “Where do you want to eat?” It is not unusual that it may take us quite a while to come up with the brilliant idea of where to go for dinner. This may drive other people nuts, though we find it amusing picking each other’s brains for the next best idea. When Korean came up as an option, he proposed Chicago Kalbi, which was fine because I had never been there.

    When we arrived to Chicago Kalbi, hostess-owner Chimoyo greeted us inquiring if it was our first visit. We replied it was my first visit though we were all experienced in going to Korean restaurants. We sat to review the menu and ordered an appetizer of Galgun (oyster pancakes) as an appetizer. We learned they use frozen oysters for these pancakes because of the uniform quality. The taste was fresh from the sea with a very light batter, fried with a soy sauce and vinegar dipping sauce. RST mentioned Tony C would especially like these because they are exactly as they are prepared in Taiwan. To demonstrate further our delight with this dish, once we finished our BBQ we ordered a second dish of oyster pancakes.

    Galgun (oyster pancake) with Soy-Vinegar Dipping Sauce:
    Image

    When we read the menu further to order our BBQ, we found the menu was principally a la carte where you order the rice, panchan and meats as separate line items. We found toward the bottom of the menu combination meals for 2 people, which included rice, panchan, soup, various meat combinations and dessert. Though we were three people, we chose item F, written entirely in Korean, which was Kalbi (marinated short ribs), Youmtong-gui (Sliced beef heart in marinade) and Dechang-gui (large intestine in miso sauce). We were already planning to get Kalbi and heart (my current favorite variety meat); so the large intestine was the bonus meat, which I don’t recall eating before though I may have.

    Selection from BBQ menu with the combinations:
    Image

    As the panchan was served Chimoyo explained the contents of each dish. I commented I had never been to a Korean restaurant where any server explained the panchan. Missing from the panchan was any presence of fish or crab. Chimoyo said fish and meat do not get along, which I later learned was a Japanese sensibility. All the panchans are made in house with the kimchee served younger and not as fermented. Most of their clientelle are Japanese who don’t favor the longer fermented Korean kimchees.

    The BBQ at Chicago Kalbi is charcoal. We learned from Chimoyo there is an ordinance against permits for charcoal grills used in Korean restaurants, they now must be gas installations. Chicago Kalbi has their charcoal cooking Grandfathered, but new Korean restaurants are gas only. In California the situation is worse: across the board no charcoal fires are allowed in Korean restaurants. Our coals arrived to the table very hot and were placed closer to the grill surface than at other Korean BBQ’s. Where I usually might rearrange the meats with my chopsticks, I couldn’t this time due to the intense heat. I really needed those long armed tongs. Chimoyo advised they purposefully tried to obtain higher heat to quickly sear the meat. She added the down draft BBQ’s, like they have at Korean Gardens, do not get as hot as those ventilated from above.

    Top row: Dechang-gui (large intestine in miso sauce) and Vegetables; Bottom Row: Kalbi (marinated short ribs), Youmtong-gui (Sliced beef heart in marinade)
    Image

    For my friend Helen this was her first taste of heart, which cooked to medium rare she found to be delicious. Chiyomo advised the large intestine is finished cooking when the wrinkles unfold completely, beyond that the intestine can get tough. This bit of wisdom we learned after the fact. Given the function of the large intestine and what is pushes around, we tended to char cook it. Chewy with no off tastes, I found it quite inoffensive to eat and would willingly try it again. Kalbi was of very high quality with a nice fat marble for best flavor.

    After BBQ, we found we still wanted a bit more to eat. We not only ordered a second round of oyster pancakes, we added a Pajun (seafood pancake: squid, beef and green onions battered with special crepe and grilled to form a golden brown pancake) and Hyeo-dejang-mat (miso flavored tongue). The seafood pancake was dominated by squid while quite delicious I would have personally preferred a greater variety of seafood.

    Pajun (seafood pancake):
    Image

    Hyeo-dejang-mat (miso flavored tongue): the tongue was simmered in miso, once cooked and skinned, then it was returned to the miso stock for additional simmering. When it is ordered, then the tongue is sliced thin and grilled. This appetizer is one that often accompanies drinks as well as the oyster pancakes.

    Hyeo-dejang-mat (miso flavored tongue).
    Image

    We learned from Chimoyo there are different grades of tongue depending on the fat content at the root. Naturally, the higher the fat content, the higher the quality the tongue is rated. This was a surprise to us because until that moment we always regarded a tongue as a tongue. To learn there were grades of tongue reminded me of the Inuit or Eskimos. Where we have only one word for snow. The Inuit have over 20 words for snow, which take into account the various qualities and shape of the flake.

    Dessert was a green tea ice cream with red bean paste, which really was a great addition to the ice cream. The red bean paste if looked at casually looked like a fruit jam and was certainly sweet enough.

    Again, I commented to Chimoyo how different this Korean BBQ visit was from the others I visited. Where I often felt they would prefer a Korean customer over an American, we were welcomed with open arms. Where Korean restaurants have shaded windows, Chicago Kalbi has picture windows looking out to the street. Everything we wanted to know on the menu was thoroughly explained. Chimoyo explained though it is a Korean BBQ restaurant, the underlying sensibilities and arrangement are Japanese. In essence a Korean BBQ whose market focus is Japanese. We also learned they have a ‘secret menu’ with selections exclusively of interest to Japanese guests with no English translation. Chimoyo advised these Japanese focused menu items are offered to Americans once she knows them and understands their palate.

    It was around this time, I began to relay my desire earlier in the evening to revisit Mitsuwa to try their new Ramen noodle stand. Chimoyo had visited it, though it was good it was not as good as those offered in Japan. I having little else to compare it to, found it to be very, very good. So I inquired with Chimoyo where does she get her Ramen noodles. In her opinion, she prefers her husband’s Ramen noodles which are offered at Chicago Kalbi during the winter as an occasional special. When I pressed her further where she likes to eat Japanese food, we then learned of their two week old restaurant Matsumoto.

    As we were preparing to leave, we admired the staff dinner laid out at the table next to us.

    Clockwise from top: Fried Rice, Soup, Dipping Sauce, Dolsot, Plate with fried Mandu and fried Chicken:
    Image

    This was by far the friendliest Korean restaurant experience I have yet to encounter. Though I miss my little-dead-fish panchan, there is a lot to learn culturally and food-wise in future visits to Chicago Kalbi.

    Chicago Kalbi Restaurant
    3752 West Lawrence Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60625
    Tel: 773/604-8183

    Wednesday-Monday: 5 PM to Midnight
    Closed Tuesdays

    Matsumoto Restaurant
    3800 West Lawrence Avenue
    Chicago, IL 60625
    Tel: 773/267-1555

    All the best,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #2 - August 26th, 2005, 4:05 pm
    Post #2 - August 26th, 2005, 4:05 pm Post #2 - August 26th, 2005, 4:05 pm
    great post cathy2. i've been dying to go to matsumoto for a while due to the thread floating around lately, and now i have to add chicago kalbi to the list.

    just a little note that made me smile... the menu is actually written in Japanese not Korean.
  • Post #3 - August 26th, 2005, 4:14 pm
    Post #3 - August 26th, 2005, 4:14 pm Post #3 - August 26th, 2005, 4:14 pm
    Am I seeing correctly on the menu that the tongue is actually Kobe tongue?
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #4 - August 27th, 2005, 7:45 am
    Post #4 - August 27th, 2005, 7:45 am Post #4 - August 27th, 2005, 7:45 am
    Hi,

    Steve - there is indeed a Kobe tongue on the BBQ menu.

    Since Chimoyo offered a detailed explanation of how there are different grades of tongue. I will assume the Miso flavored tongue was from a lesser grade of tongue, not the Kobe. My feeling the Kobe Tongue at the dear price of $20 for a portion may not be Tongue we had. Especially since it is segregated from the rest of the menu as special item.

    Jeff - I wrote the Matsumoto original post ... thanks for pointing out it is in Japanese, I just didn't recognize that point. Though Chicago Kalbi is a Japanese oriented Korean BBQ, it shouldn't be a surprise the menu would be in Japanese. If you are interest, you could join the group going to Matsumoto on Monday evening. Just PM or add to the post on the Events board.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #5 - September 2nd, 2005, 6:04 pm
    Post #5 - September 2nd, 2005, 6:04 pm Post #5 - September 2nd, 2005, 6:04 pm
    Based on the strength of Cathy2's posting, I decided to visit Chicago Kalbi yesterday night. I've been to many Korean restaurants, but for some reason I have always been nervous about trying the tabletop barbecue. I don't know why - maybe I was afraid that I would look like a fool. And, although I love Korean food, it's true that the service at many of the restaurants is not very friendly.

    So, Cathy's post gave me that little shot of courage that I needed, and I headed off to Chicago Kalbi with my friend Brenda. As we walked in I was overpowered by the smoky meaty smell. Wow!

    The service was not exactly effusive, but not unfriendly, either. We decided to get the combo number 2 (chicken, bulgogi, & kalbi). I wanted to try some of the crazier stuff, but Brenda wasn't into it. The waitress brought the meat out and then a few minutes later a guy came out with the flaming charcoal brazier. The thing was hot, obviously, and the poor dude was carrying it with just two wet washcloths for protection. He probably could have used some oven mits.

    The waitress brought out the array of little side dishes, a basket of lettuce, and some spicy bean paste. She said "you can take the lettuce and spicy sauce to make a little wrappy."

    Another friend (Wendy) had joined us because she lives around the corner. Unfortunately, Wendy does not eat red meat. She also hates Korean food - a fact that I had forgotten when we decided to invite her. She was a good sport though and manned the grill while Brenda and I chowed down. "I don't like eating it - but I can cook it" she explained.

    I did a little cooking myself, but the damn thing seemed to flame up everytime I was in charge. Maybe I'll just hire Wendy as my personal korean barbecue chef.

    And I'm going to need one, because I loved it! Loved, loved, loved it! The meat was perfectly marinated, and the lettuce wrappies were tasty. Usually I hate lettuce, too! Another poster had commented that the chicken was not so good, but I disagree. I thought that it had a very nice sesame taste to it.

    So, thanks LTH & Cathy2. You gave me a shot in the arm that I needed, and now I'm a true believer. In Korean barbecue.
  • Post #6 - September 2nd, 2005, 9:56 pm
    Post #6 - September 2nd, 2005, 9:56 pm Post #6 - September 2nd, 2005, 9:56 pm
    HI,

    I'm glad my post gave you the little push you needed to give Korean tabletop cooking a try. I have a feeling the charming hostess-owner was not present, but down the street at Matsumoto with Erik M. last night. Chimoyo is the sparkly personality who really provides warmth and a sincere desire for you to feel right at home. Please be sure to ask for her next time.

    My friend Helen and I were once at Korean Garden watching a Mother assemble meat with bean paste wrapped in lettuce for her son. Neither one was looking at the other but every wrap always seemed to find his mouth. It was akin to watching a Mother bird feed her babies.

    All the best,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #7 - April 25th, 2006, 2:08 pm
    Post #7 - April 25th, 2006, 2:08 pm Post #7 - April 25th, 2006, 2:08 pm
    Visited for the first time on saturday night... gotta say, I agree with everyone above, it was great!

    We had the kalbi beef and the spicy marinated pork, which was FANTASTIC. Just the right amount of spice. Highly highly recommended. :D
  • Post #8 - April 25th, 2006, 3:51 pm
    Post #8 - April 25th, 2006, 3:51 pm Post #8 - April 25th, 2006, 3:51 pm
    As Cathy2 mentioned in her OP, this restaurant IS heavily favored by the Japanese community; Rave reviews at sumutoko.com - nice pictures, which are very reminiscent of Japanese portions. :wink:
  • Post #9 - March 11th, 2008, 7:04 am
    Post #9 - March 11th, 2008, 7:04 am Post #9 - March 11th, 2008, 7:04 am
    I had plans with my mother last night for dinner. The type of food is always her choice, and last night she mentioned that she hadn't had Korean food in a long time. Since I live about a half-mile from Chicago Kalbi and have never been there*, I took the opportunity to give it a try.

    I found Chicago Kalbi to be perfectly edible and inoffensive. A few standard panchan, mild bulgogi, so-so mandu, and flavorless bibimbap** left me feeling cold (and a little hungry). The highlight was clearly the attractive, nicely marbled kalbi slices (but it's hard to mess up a nice piece of meat and a bucket of coals).

    Cookie said that Chicago Kalbi would be a nice place for people who have never tried Korean food, since everything was so mild. I counter with the fact that I don't consider Korean food to be so severely challenging that a visit to one of the better outlets isn't a better option.

    Nothing tasted bad at Chicago Kalbi, but based on my one and only visit, this is solidly mediocre Korean food and I won't be returning. There are too many other spots around town that I find exciting.

    Best,
    Michael

    *It's hard to draw me away from my favorite, Kang Nam.

    **In fact, I find the fast food version at Korean Express in the loop to have more flavor.
  • Post #10 - March 9th, 2010, 9:06 am
    Post #10 - March 9th, 2010, 9:06 am Post #10 - March 9th, 2010, 9:06 am
    One could easily imagine an alternative universe in which Chicago Kalbi would be a well-known GNR. It has authentic character, it's obviously known to old-time LTHers (since it came up frequently in regards to Matsumoto), and whether you like the food or not like Michael above, well, there are plenty of places you could say are tamer than better versions somewhere else, but will have the black and brown plaque until the end of days. But for whatever vagaries of who ate where when, it has been largely overlooked while San Soo Gap San and Hae Woon Dae have been anointed and Solga and Kang Nam at least have enjoyed occasional discussion. And I don't know why; it's a real LTH kind of place, as comfortingly old school and homey as a Saturday afternoon double feature of Tora-San movies.

    We wound up there Sunday night when our intention to eat at an undiscovered chicken place ran into some sort of confusion— my wife thinks the guy was saying there was a party that night; I thought I heard they were missing a part to some essential piece of equipment. Anyway, we kept on driving and suddenly Chicago Kalbi appeared to save us from driving west on Lawrence until we fell off the face of the earth. It was surprisingly busy— we had to wait 20 minutes for a table with barbecue capability, and as we waited three other parties came in and another one took one look and left.

    Finally we were seated in a little booth with an exhaust fan overhead. So first of all, I was charmed by the decor— I can't think of another place that so much feels like Korea, or Japan, or most likely of all, the mix of Asian neighborhood joints in my head from movies. It's one of those great step-into-another-culture places. And the food— well, it's true that the panchan is fairly standard and safe, but I don't really go to a Korean BBQ place for panchan anyway, except as counterpoint. It's about as irrelevant as the quality of the tomato on my plate which I'm not going to put on my cheeseburger anyway. The point is the meat and the meat was fairly beautiful, nicely marbled kalbi, tender bulgogi. Or the real point is, the kids got into cooking it, they really dug having the live coals right there and watching the meat cook and trying to learn how to judge when to turn it.

    So I agree that it's the least adventurous of the Korean BBQ spots in town, and yet it was a great adventure for all of us Sunday night, and the kids are already calling it their favorite restaurant (until the next time we go to one of their many other "favorite restaurant"s, Smoque or Depot Diner or whatever). For me, it has its place, and it certainly has its charms.
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  • Post #11 - March 11th, 2010, 11:39 pm
    Post #11 - March 11th, 2010, 11:39 pm Post #11 - March 11th, 2010, 11:39 pm
    IMHO, one needs to start looking at Chicago Kalbi as a "Japanese restaurant w/ heavy Korean influence" as opposed to a "Korean restaurant w/ heavy Japanese influence" to appreciate it. I did the mental switch a year and half ago and really started enjoying going there even though we've been going for years and using it as a change-of-pace sub for other Korean bbq joints. With the mental switch in mind, we tend to order less Korean dish but more Japanese dishes (opposite of what we used to do) today, and have been having much better success feeling we got what we came for at the end of our meals.
  • Post #12 - March 14th, 2010, 12:09 am
    Post #12 - March 14th, 2010, 12:09 am Post #12 - March 14th, 2010, 12:09 am
    I never post but I thought I could provide some insight to this place.

    As the poster above mentions, this place is definitely not a "real" Korean BBQ restaurant. Rather, it's a "yakiniku" restaurant. This place is very much like the "Korean BBQ" restaurants that you see in a lot of Japanese communities where there are a lot of Korean immigrants.

    Check the wiki entry for "yakiniku". Saves me a lot of typing...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yakiniku

    When you go into the restaurant, you'll notice a lot of autographs by Japanese celebrities who have visited Chicago.

    IMO, this place is better than San Soo Gap San (sp?) but then I might be biased because I grew up in Japan.
  • Post #13 - March 21st, 2010, 11:01 am
    Post #13 - March 21st, 2010, 11:01 am Post #13 - March 21st, 2010, 11:01 am
    Just wanted to say I LOVE Chicago Kalbi house. I grew up in Manhattan going to a midtown Korean BBQ place that was slightly upscale and obviously aimed at Japanese businessmen (Woo Lae Oak of Seoul was the restaurant). When I moved to Chicago that was one of the places I missed most and Chicago Kalbi pretty much fills the bill (it's not as big and impressive from an atmosphere/decor point of view) but the food and service are on par. And of course as I now know not so authentic. But I guess I like my Korean BBQ a little "inauthentic". :) And I'd also like to chime in that the appetizers (dumplings, chicken wings, pancakes, etc) are all really nice and I've made a meal by ordering a bunch of those when I just didn't have the time or energy to BBQ at the table (or grill to be more precise...).

    --Dirk--
    Dirk van den Heuvel
  • Post #14 - March 21st, 2010, 11:46 am
    Post #14 - March 21st, 2010, 11:46 am Post #14 - March 21st, 2010, 11:46 am
    groovedirk wrote:Just wanted to say I LOVE Chicago Kalbi house. I grew up in Manhattan going to a midtown Korean BBQ place that was slightly upscale and obviously aimed at Japanese businessmen (Woo Lae Oak of Seoul was the restaurant).
    --Dirk--


    Dirk - I love Chicago Kalbi, too. The quality of the meat seals the deal for me, and my favorite appetizer of all time, YUK-HWE: Top-quality raw beef tenderloin lightly seasoned. Topped with a raw egg york. (Japanese style steak tartar.) The panchans are not as good as San Soo Gap San, but the meat more than makes up for it.

    There used to be a Woo Lae Oak in the downtown area on Hubbard (if I recall correctly), one of my favorites as well. Visited at least once a week during my first year in Chicago.

    Google search shows up a location in Rolling Meadows: http://www.woolaeoakchicago.com/
    3201 Algonquin Rd
    Rolling Meadows, IL
    847-870-9910

    If you make it to Woo Lae Oak in the Chicago 'burbs of Rolling Meadows, please report back on how you like it, if it's as good as the Manhattan branch.
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  • Post #15 - July 14th, 2010, 12:32 pm
    Post #15 - July 14th, 2010, 12:32 pm Post #15 - July 14th, 2010, 12:32 pm
    fenger wrote:IMHO, one needs to start looking at Chicago Kalbi as a "Japanese restaurant w/ heavy Korean influence" as opposed to a "Korean restaurant w/ heavy Japanese influence" to appreciate it. I did the mental switch a year and half ago and really started enjoying going there even though we've been going for years and using it as a change-of-pace sub for other Korean bbq joints. With the mental switch in mind, we tend to order less Korean dish but more Japanese dishes (opposite of what we used to do) today, and have been having much better success feeling we got what we came for at the end of our meals.


    Like most ethinic cuisines, there are regional differences in many of the dishes, especially in this case, the different preparations and types of panchan. The owners of Chicago Kalbi, the wife is Korean, the husband is Japanese, also contribute to the melding of the cuisines, where it does not strictly fall into one category or the other, but the influences of both can be seen.

    My Wife and I have been going to Chicago Kalbi for many, many, many years. My wife, who is Korean, and In-laws consider it one of their favorite Korean restaurants in the area. It is very interesting to see the evolution of the Korean restaurant, especially in the Chicago are. When we were dating, nearly 30 years ago, my introduction to Korean food was of the homemade variety. At the time there were only a few resturants in the area that served traditional Korean food. Bando (Lawrence ave) and Woo Lae Oak (downtown), both since closed, were a couple of the more popular ones, but they served a very heavy American crowd, the food there tended to be more "americanized". Most Koreans frequented the small, family owned, relatively non-english speaking places such as Gin Go Gae or Woo Chun (both near Lincoln and California), where the KimChee and panchan were more to their palates, and not "dumbed down" for the american crowd. As the Korean BBQ places became more popular (what American does not like meat grilled over open flame), many of the restaurants have tried to adapt in order to attract the people willing to try a new cuisine. The goal for many of them is to find the balance between attracting the American customer and retaining the Korean crowds as well. Chicago Kalbi has done this very well, in addition to attracting the Japanese crowd as well.
  • Post #16 - February 13th, 2014, 12:10 pm
    Post #16 - February 13th, 2014, 12:10 pm Post #16 - February 13th, 2014, 12:10 pm
    I'm heading out for BBQ on Saturday. Does anyone have any recent experiences dining here? The last time I was here was probably five years ago and remember enjoying it quite a bit.
  • Post #17 - December 30th, 2017, 4:29 pm
    Post #17 - December 30th, 2017, 4:29 pm Post #17 - December 30th, 2017, 4:29 pm
    Chicago Kalbi was a winter hit this week, just as good as I remembered from years back. Mild crisp Zainichi panchan (goma-ae and potato salad included), scratch miso-pepper soup, house bbq and citrusy tongue sauces and nutty gochujang, big portraits of Ichiro staring down. Really special are the pork cheek and highest-grade tongue, sealed on the blistering hot live coal grill. Bulgogi is marinated just right for my taste. I admire the quality of the kalbi and chicken preps but I'd pass these up every time for the facemeats. Japanese or Korean beer, sake, shochu, or soju are there for chasers in whatever tradition you're accustomed. They are martinets about nondivided bills - one bill, one card, "you pay each other back with Chase Quickpay." Plus c'est la même chose.

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