A night of Korean bar­be­cue at Char in In­man Park

GA Voice - - Outspoken -

I’m writ­ing this the day be­fore vot­ers (hope­fully) send Don­ald Trump back to the Las Ve­gas asy­lum from which he es­caped two years ago. But if things go as planned, an­other lu­natic, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, will show Hil­lary his ass in Trump’s stead. He plans to launch a mis­sile in the di­rec­tion of Guam, just to re­mind us that North Korea is on the verge of full nu­clear weaponry.

Fine. What­ever. In fact, you should cel­e­brate Hil­lary’s election and pay homage to Jong by din­ing at the new

Char Korean Bar and Grill (299 N. High­land Ave., 404-525-2427, www.charat­lanta.com).

The restau­rant’s menu in­cludes meals named af­ter Jong and his de­ceased fa­ther and brother. There’s also a por­trait in the bath­room. You would be right to note very dry satire – so dry that I could not fol­low staffers’ ex­pla­na­tions of some of it.

Char’s owner is Richard Tang, who was in­volved in the open­ing of Craft Iza­kaya at Krog Street Mar­ket. Spe­cial­iz­ing in Korean bar­be­cue, Char opened in Septem­ber and seems to have en­coun­tered se­rial im­ped­i­ments. It didn’t have a pour­ing li­cense when it opened. Then its chef, Ryan Cather­all, dis­ap­peared and was re­placed by the sous chef, Shaun Byun. Then the city ex­tin­guished the restau­rant’s tra­di­tional ta­ble-top grills. They’ll be back in use, I’m sure, but their ab­sence cre­ated a long wait while the kitchen grilled ev­ery­thing.

The small but dense, six-page menu here is di­vided into starters, spe­cial­ties like bibim­bap and gar­lic shrimp, and plates of bar­be­cue-grilled meats. The prob­lem was that I could never get a straight an­swer out of our server as to whether, say, a bowl of the bibim­bap was ad­e­quate as an en­trée. He kept di­rect­ing our at­ten­tion to the combo plates of grilled meats. This is what we were in­clined to or­der any­way, but he in­sisted we or­der the $60 plate plus the $120 plate. The fea­tured meats were mar­i­nated short ribs, bul­gogi, brisket, pork belly, spicy pork, and tongue. These were all spec­tac­u­larly ten­der and each was in­di­vid­ual enough in fla­vor that they didn’t melt into one big meaty taste.

The com­bos are served with un­lim­ited ban­chan – the tra­di­tional, mainly pick­led vegeta­bles that are usual with Korean meals. The va­ri­ety isn’t as great as I’ve had at many restau­rants, but the qual­ity couldn’t be bet­ter. That means noth­ing tasted like it had been sit­ting in a five-gal­lon jar for three years. There’s plenty of kim­chi, of course. It was mild and, un­for­tu­nately, there was noth­ing on the ta­ble that had much of a spicy kick.

You are free to eat these meats and condi­ments as you like. The restau­rant pro­vides a mound of let­tuce leaves in which to roll the meat with the ban­chan, rice, and a touch of three sauces avail­able. Or you can eat the meat over rice. Per­son­ally, I do not think the five of us needed $180 of meat. I think the $120 plate and a cou­ple of apps would have worked fine.

Of course, be­ing too full to wad­dle didn’t keep us from ac­cept­ing the restau­rant’s of­fer of free dessert be­cause of the long wait for our food. A fried twinkie with “straw­berry fluid gel and dou­ble cho­co­late milk” doesn’t sound very tempt­ing, but it van­ished.

I think the restau­rant’s still got some kinks to work out, but the only Korean bar­be­cue in the area that comes close is at Break­ers in Du­luth, where you won’t spend quite as much and you get an all-you-can-eat pass.

Cliff Bostock is a for­mer psy­chother­a­pist now spe­cial­iz­ing in life coach­ing. Con­tact him at 404-518-4415 or cliff­bo­stock@gmail.com.

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