Monday, January 14, 2019

Saemaeul (Buena Park, CA)

Saemaeul Sikdang Restaurant: The Original Korean BBQ
5471 Beach Blvd, Buena Park, CA 90621
714.562.0900 /
Mon 01/14/2019, 07:45p-09:20p

Saemaeul Exterior

The Buena Park gogi-gui scene got a boost last May with the debut of Saemaeul, the brainchild of Korean celebrity chef Baek Jong-won. Baek is the head of The Born, a restaurant franchising company he founded in 1993 that currently boasts over 1300 locations across South Korea, other parts of Asia, and right here in the United States. Among The Born's over two dozen brands, we've already had iterations of Korean-Chinese eateries Hong Kong Banjum and Paik's Noodle in the Los Angeles area for years. Saemaeul, however, is arguably The Born's flagship brand, initially launched in October 2005 and now boasting 145 outposts. It's named after the South Korean Saemaul Undong initiative of the 1970s, a "New Village Movement" created by President Park Chung-hee that was designed to modernize the country's rural economy.

Saemaeul Interior
Saemaeul takes over the address previously held by M Pizza and Grill (i.e. Mr. Pizza sans franchise license), Mr. Pizza (opened September 2015), and the longstanding (ca. 1995) King’s Garden Chinese Restaurant. From what I understand, the decor is ostensibly inspired by gogijib of the 1970s.

Saemaeul Menu: Intro Saemaeul Menu: Intro Saemaeul Menu: XL Combos Saemaeul Menu: S Combos Saemaeul Menu: Yeoltan Bulgogi Saemaeul Menu: Barbecue
Saemaeul Menu: Barbecue Saemaeul Menu: Barbecue Saemaeul Menu: Traditional Dishes Saemaeul Menu: Stew, Soup Saemaeul Menu: Rice, Noodles Saemaeul Menu: Side Menu Saemaeul Beverage List
Saemaeul's menu, not surprisingly, is centered on its selection of meats, which includes a couple more uncommon varieties. Various combos are offered, as are a number of other Korean staple dishes. Drink-wise, you get your typical beers and sojus and such, as well as flavored makgeolli. Corkage is not available. Click for larger versions.

Miyeok Guk
Miyeok-guk (seaweed soup) showed off cozy, umami-laden flavors, and just seemed apropos for the chilly weather we were having.

Peach Makgeolli
A hefty goblet of Peach Makgeolli [$11.99] wasn't overly sweet thankfully, though the booze was still well hidden.

Yeoltan Bulgogi
Beef Special Combo
Yeoltan Bulgogi [$17.99] | Charcoal Grilled Thinly Sliced Pork
Beef Special Combo [$52.99] | Kkotsal + Sogalbisal + Chadolbagi + Kimchi Jjigae
We ended up ordering a beef combo, with Saemaeul's signature pork tacked on.

Myeolchi Bokkeum
The myeolchi bokkeum (anchovy) was as briny as expected, but also displayed a pervasive sweetness.

Jangajji pickles ate crunchy and just acidic enough.

Chadolbagi (Cooking on Grill)
Chadolbagi (Fully Cooked)
The usual starter of chadol (brisket) was both fattier and more flavorful than usual, as well as somewhat chewier.

Sogeumgwa Huchu, Chadol Sauce
Salt-and-pepper was primed for the application of sesame oil, while the chadol sauce contained cabbage, which I don't think I've seen before.

Sangchu, Kkaenip, Gochu
Ssam wrappers of sangchu (lettuce) and kkaenip (perilla), along with a couple of delightfully crunchy, not-too-spicy gochu. Try the peppers simply with a dip in the ssamjang.

Kkotsal (Cooking on Grill)
Kkotsal (Fully Cooked)
The kkotsal (boneless short ribs) I found juicy and tender, as well as super clean tasting, with a hint of smoke.

Gamjachae Bokkeum
The gamjachae bokkeum was my favorite of the banchan, as I loved the crunchiness of the potatoes here.

Pajeori also hit the mark with its sweet 'n' spicy notes layered over the astringency of green onion.

Sogalbisal (Cooking on Grill)
Sogalbisal (Fully Cooked)
The sogalbisal (beef finger rib) was the most austere meat of the night due to its tougher consistency and relatively restrained flavor profile.

Baechu Kimchi
A pretty classic rendition of baechu kimchi.

The requisite salad was on the underdressed side, and rather bitter.

Yeoltan Bulgogi
Yeoltan Bulgogi (Cooking on Grill)
Yeoltan Bulgogi (Fully Cooked)
We ended with Saemaeul's signature yeoltan bulgogi, which came slathered in a gochujang-based sauce. It was quite spicy (I was glistening), but the meat did display this undercurrent of sweetness to it as well. Texturally, the pork had a meaty, satisfying chew that was different than what you find in your typical bulgogi.

Haemul Pajeon
Haemul Pajeon [$14.99] | Seafood and Green Onion Pancake
Saemaeul's haemul pajeon was one of the better ones I've eaten in recent times. I especially appreciated the pancake's almost "fluffy" consistency, not to mention how well the seafood was incorporated.

Kimchi Jjigae
Last up was the restaurant's signature chilbun dwaeji kimchi jjigae, a preparation of the stew in which it's apparently boiled for only seven minutes (a relatively short time from what I hear). In any case, it was a solid rendition of the dish for sure. I definitely found it meatier than usual, with a stronger sour component from the kimchi.

Saemaeul is another worthwhile addition to Buena Park's Korean cuisine landscape. The barbeque was solid, while the non-BBQ dishes delivered too, and overall the menu here just seems ever so subtly different than those of competing KBBQ places. I'll be curious to see if they expand to more locations throughout SoCal.


Blogger Jack Barlow said...

Food looks great but inside looks cold...everyone wearing jackets to stay warm.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 3:34:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Interestingly, I actually recall it being quite warm in there Jack, both from the heat of the grill and the heat of all the gochujang I was having.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019 3:54:00 AM  

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