After 2 months in our apartment, we finally managed to get up the nerve to visit the galbi restaurant that is right next to our complex. We, plus 3 other couples (easier to be the obvious Americans when you're in a large group, don't ya know) managed to get ourselves installed in a traditional Korean dining room. Welcome to sitting on the floor and no forks in sight...learn to use chopsticks or die of starvation. Anyway, the restaurant came highly recommended by a friend, so I, having been coached by said friend, managed to convince the waitress that I spoke at least some Korean by ordering galbi, bap, and the ten course side dishes. Oops...poor woman trying to get me to understand things she was asking...and I still don't know what she wanted half the time. More incentive to learn the language.
Anyway, the food was amazing...galbi is a sort of tenderized beef that you, yes you, grill at your table on coal grills that are set into your tables. After you order, they bring a large cast iron pot of hot coals to your table, insert them into the opening, set the grill on top and attach the venting system. Then, out comes the meat (ordered by weight...we got 250g per person, which seemed to be a good amount for everyone) and the waitress very obligingly put on the grill for us. By this time I'm sure the "oh, no...some more people that have absolutely no idea what they are doing" attitude kicked in...we would have figured out that we were supposed to cook it since they left the scissors and tongs on the table, but they were very attentive and came back often to check the meat. Good service, what can I say.
Served with the meat, we got a multitude of different side dishes ranging from potato salad, a lettuce salad, various veggies of the Korean variety, a soup, and a few baskets of lettuce with which you eat the meat you are now cooking. No plates involved, by the way, so the nice damp towels they provided were greatly appreciated. For those of you with germ phobias, you may want to avoid the traditional restaurants, as they are all generally communal eating...all those sides come in their own bowl, and everyone at the table just takes as much as they want, generally using their chopsticks. About the only thing that is designated yours is your bowl of rice and your drink.
Also, a word to the wise, you will be asked to quiet down if you get too rowdy...so if you have a large group, you might not be able to hear the other end of the table very well, but oh well...when in Rome, don't make the natives mad. (And before you ask, no we were not drinking alcohol...this was strickly a Coke and sparking cider party).
Looking back on it, I do believe they tailored the sides to us...there was not a speck of kimchi as I know it on the table...which is sad, because as we were leaving they passed us with some of the spinach/chard kimchi on the way to another table that looked good...and nothing horribly spicy. All in all, it was a great evening, and I am very happy we did go there, and would recommend it highly. Everyone needs some traditional Korean dining.