Monday, October 10, 2016

Oz


Going to a restaurant to cook your own food might sound counter-intuitive, but there's also something indulgent and exuberantly festive about Oz Korean BBQ. As nondescript as its interior looks, as pedestrian as most of the food items are, I do love this place. At $20 for all you can eat, it's like meat lovers' Disneyland. 

The scrumptious, multi-sensory experience begins as the tabletop grill is turned on and trays of raw marinated meat are served. Grab the tongs, throw some meat into the shallow pit, listen to the griddle sizzle, and watch your Galbi ribs turn from pink to brown, all while luxuriating in a billow of barbecue aroma (Yes, your hair and clothes will inevitably smell like Bulgogi for hours afterwards!). Once in a while, especially if you cook fat-laden pork jowl or belly, there will be flare-ups big enough to cause a little bit of excitement, but not so threatening that you have to be concerned about your eyebrows. Most diners eat and grill at the same time with no intervals. It does require multi-tasking skills and watchful eyes; those thin slices of meat cook and burn fast. Sometimes we even see ambidextrous eaters wielding chopsticks in one hand and tongs in the other. 

Juicy piles of Bulgogi populate most tables. Extraordinary? No. But it certainly meets the standards of one discriminating Bulgogi-inspector, aka me. The chili pork and sesame beef deserve a good round of applause for their bold flavor and velveteen tenderness. The Galbi ribs, both the Korean and Hawaiian versions, are well-seasoned and succulent. However, there's no clear distinction between the two, except for the chunks of canned pineapple (unmistakably canned pineapple!) strewn on the latter. Most seafood items, such as calamari and shrimp, suffer a bit from timid seasoning. But the jumbo spicy mussels are sure to not disappoint adventurous palates. 

Once the grill is off and the table is cleared, I'm usually ridden with guilt. I secretly rebuke myself for my earthly indulgence, bloated belly, overworking digestive tract, and repulsive Bulgogi burps. And yet, such self-shaming is quickly overcome by the sense of euphoria emanating from my gluttonous soul. "So when are we coming back here for another debauchery?" the inner glutton always asks.