Dae Jang Keum Korean BBQ

>> Sunday, October 21, 2012

Date of Dining: 10/13/2012
Price: ~ $40 per person, but depends on amount ordered
Location: 7905 Engineer Rd, San Diego, CA 92111

The Quick Bit

+ high quality and varied selection of meat
+ great banchan
+ free coffee and peanuts while waiting
Δ all around service issues marred the meal
Δ parking can be difficult
You're probably wondering why I haven't been posting recently. One of the reasons is that I went on vacation, but the other reason is simply posting twice a week had caught up to me and I needed a bit of a break. I believe that I have had enough of that break, and will try to update a little extra (especially about my vacation) for a week or two to make up for my absence.

I've long heard that Dae Jang Keum (DJK) was the best Korean BBQ restaurant in San Diego, but didn't have a chance to investigate until recently. While it is not the cheapest restaurant, DJK is supposedly better based on the quality of meat, marinade, and banchan.
With quite the spread of banchan, I was extremely happy with the quality of preparation in these dishes. Each dish was well seasoned and full of flavor. They served as the perfect appetizer for the coming onslaught of meat.
While I'm not sure that these were binchotan charcoals, they did seem to have many similar properties in how they cooked the meat. The use of coals in a korean bbq restaurant was quite the surprise to me as most places simply resort to a gas grill. However, the use of coals is welcome as they add a nice smoky and mesquite flavor to the meat.
To start, we were given a grill cover to cook the first few courses. This would serve to cook the tongue and brisket cuts.
combination A (minus the brisket)
It was about at this time where I started having problems with the service. I asked the waitress to allow me to take photos, but she seemed in an awful rush. It was rushed to the point that the brisket was unceremoniously dumped on the grill plate before it had adequate time to heat. As most experts will tell you, one of the secrets to good barbecue is getting a nice sear on the meat from a hot grill. The grill was also filled with more meat than should have been present to allow air flow to develop a nice caramelization.
 The problem was exasperated later as before we had even finished cooking the brisket, the waitress returned and served the remaining portion of meat on the grill and placed the pork belly to grill.
pork belly
As the grill was nowhere near the correct heat, our pork belly began the slow process of boiling. It was at this point where I decided that enough was enough and took over the grill entirely. As such, I was mainly unable to get further photos as I had to fight off the waitress from intruding against my wishes.
I believe that the rush was due to the amount of meat we ordered - normally one round of coals would not be enough to cook that quantity of meat, but she tried to rush us through the cooking process so that an entire round of meat could be cooked using one set of coals. When I asked for the coals to be changed out, I was initially refused, and our party had to wait for 20 minutes before the waitress gave in.
rib eye
After the coals were changed, I managed to get one more photo before having to man the grill again. To cook the thicker meats, the pan was changed out for a grill so that the charcoals could directly infuse the smoky flavor into the meat.
While I generally had a favorable impression of the meal, it was severely marred by the service. Having to concentrate entirely on fighting off the waitress is not how I like to enjoy my meal. I did think the meat was of higher quality than the other all you can eat restaurants.


While the quality of the meat at Dae Jung Keum was great, I had many problems with the service on a Saturday night. My feeling of the meal was so mixed that really all I can say was that the whole meal was inconclusive. I really did enjoy the preparation of the banchan along with the quality of the meat - it was not on the same level as Totoraku, but it was comparable for a much cheaper price. I guess this is a good thing as it means I will have to visit again before making a final determination.


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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
None of the reviews are meant to dissuade you from trying anything by yourself, but simply to provide information for you to make a more informed choice.
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