Beef or pork?
That is the choice you make whenever you go to a Korean grill. If you like to try the many barbecues along Buford Highway and in Duluth, chances are you default to beef. If you’ve adopted Honey Pig or Iron Age as your new favorite Korean restaurant, you’ve likely gone to the swine side.
At 678 in Duluth, you’ve got a choice on a menu that gives equal weight to a variety of different cuts of beef and pork. This restaurant is part of a Korea-based chain, and as you can see from the photo above, it has a pop sensibility. While the Korean club kids like to stay toward the front of the restaurant, families gravitate to the rear, where there’s a large playroom for children, away from the licking flames and considerable smoke of the dining room. Throughout the space are many posters and cutout images of Kang Ho-Dong, the celebrity entertainer who owns the restaurant and apparently mugs a lot.
Our family of five decided to go for the full-on beef experience rather than ordering à la carte. It costs $99 and supposedly feeds three-four people, but we found it ample. The meal includes not only wraps, sauces, dips and banchan, but also soup, rice and a big bowl of noodle soup to finish the meal out. So…20 bucks a head. Not bad!
The restaurant uses real hardwood charcoal. The receptacle at the bottom of the picture will be filled with beaten egg that slowly transforms into a spoonable custard.
Other items from the platter above (which a waiter will cook one after the other) include kkot deung sim (ribeye steak), saeng deung sim (sirloin) and kalbi (marinated short rib).
Wrappers for the grilled meat here include bitter lettuces, perilla leaf and wedges of boiled cabbage instead of the blander red leaf lettuce you get elsewhere. There are also some rounds of pickled radish, which have a pink tinge from their marinade. I also like the option of fine sea salt as a dip. A little nugget of meat right off the grill, a few granules of salt, a swig of beer: that’s a nice thing to do to your mouth.
The name of the restaurant, by the way, has nothing to do with local area codes and everything to do with augury. Some numbers are auspicious.
- by John Kessler for the Food & More blog