Break­ers: Up­scale Korean BBQ done right

GA Voice - - Araats Reviews Entertainment -

In an ear­lier life­time – im­me­di­ately af­ter fin­ish­ing col­lege – I moved to El­ber­ton, Ga. to work for the town’s twice-weekly news­pa­per. A few months af­ter I ar­rived, a Korean fam­ily moved into the house next door. Be­fore I in­tro­duced my­self to them, I no­ticed that they were con­stantly dig­ging holes in the back­yard, bury­ing and ex­tract­ing con­tain­ers.

El­ber­ton, like ev­ery small town, was ob­sessed with bar­be­cue. Learn­ing this, the Korean fam­ily in­vited me to a bar­be­cue din­ner of their shred­ded, spicy steak called bul­gogi. The buried con­tain­ers turned out to be full of fer­ment­ing kim­chi, the spicy cab­bage that’s now dumped on ev­ery­thing from bul­gogi­filled tacos to hot dogs and scram­bled eggs. There’s even a con­tes­tant on “RuPaul’s Drag Race” named Kim­chi.

I left El­ber­ton af­ter a mis­er­able year and took a crav­ing for the smoky, spicy bar­be­cue and kim­chi with me. I moved to other ru­ral ar­eas of the state for four more years but never tasted kim­chi again un­til I moved back to At­lanta and dis­cov­ered a break­through spot on Peachtree near Sixth Street and, later, Bu­ford High­way, where I be­came a reg­u­lar at the still-pop­u­lar

Hae Woon Dae (5805 Bu­ford Hwy., 770-451-7957).

There, you can grill meats at your ta­ble over a blaz­ing-hot chunk of coal de­posited just af­ter you take a seat – in a chair or on the floor.

In re­cent years, there’s been an ex­plo­sion of Korean spots in Du­luth. Last year, ar­guably the best of them all,

Break­ers Korean Grill and Bar­be­cue (3505 Gwin­nett Place Dr., 770-946-1000, www.break­ers­bbq.com),

opened. I vis­ited re­cently with four friends. The deal here is that the res­tau­rant el­e­vates what is usu­ally served in eth­nic, un­dec­o­rated restau­rants to the level of fine din­ing. Be­sides the sleek dé­cor of mu­rals, white booths with black ta­bles and dra­matic art, you get sig­nif­i­cantly higher prices than you’ll pay else­where.

But there’s a good rea­son for that. The meats – which you cook on a table­top grill – are of higher qual­ity than usual. Where an in­ex­pen­sive res­tau­rant might use flank steak for bul­gogi, Break­ers uses first-rate rib­eye for $25.99. As­tound­ing sourced short ribs, boned or deboned, will set you back $35.99. (There are also a few seafood en­trees.) Th­ese and all other meats are mar­i­nated in sauces that tend to­ward the sweet. This may be about Amer­i­can­iza­tion. I need more kick and, no, there’s no Sriracha in sight. I know. It might be crass to use the stuff where mari­nades are so com­plex.

The best deal for your money – $29.99 – is the all-you-can-eat bar­be­cue. We’re talk­ing six truly end­less cour­ses of meat – bul­gogi, chicken, pork ribs, (un­be­liev­able) pork belly, brisket, and squid. Our ta­ble only or­dered one re­peat. All meals are served with the tra­di­tional ban­chan – small side dishes of kim­chi, bean sprouts, ex­otic pick­les, and such. Th­ese are for snack­ing or com­bin­ing with the meats to di­ver­sify fla­vors. No­tably, no rice is served.

One plus here that ev­ery critic has raved about – to te­dious ex­tents – is the ab­sence of smoke in the din­ing room. The food here is pre-cooked on char­coal grills in the kitchen and brought to the table­top propane grills to be fin­ished.

Ser­vice is fan­tas­tic. There’s even a but­ton un­der the ta­ble if you have an emer­gency need for a server to, say, bring you an­other load of pork belly.

Break­ers is a long way from El­ber­ton, but I never eat Korean bar­be­cue with­out think­ing and thank­ing that fam­ily from so long ago.

Cliff Bo­s­tock is a long­time din­ing critic and psy­chother­a­pist turned life coach. www.cliff­bo­stock.com.

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