14775 Jeffrey Rd
Irvine, CA 92618
SSam Korean BBQ? Shik Do Rak? House of Duk Bo Sam? I'm not exactly sure what the name of this restaurant is, since I saw all of these names on and in the restaurant. The banner sign outside says SSAm Korean BBQ though. It's a temporary banner, so their permanent sign might be different. I'm pretty sure it's the only Korean BBQ place in Arbor Village Center off of Jeffrey and Walnut though.
My wife and I were invited out to dinner by her boss, "M" and her husband, "H". M & H picked the restaurant. I've driven past this place before, but have never given it a second look. To me, it was just another Asian restaurant in a shopping center full of Asian restaurants and stores.
We were seated at a large table with a hot grill in the middle. There were eight of us including H&M's kids and another couple. They brought a single menu to the table that was picked up by H. I never looked at it so I'm not sure of the variety and prices at this place. H ordered in Korean. Since I don't speak any Korean, I'm not exactly sure what he ordered.
Almost immediately, the waitress started bombarding our table with tons of tiny dishes containing a lot of unfamiliar things. The only thing I recognized was the kimchi. I was told that some of the items were rice paper, turnip paper, some kind of fish cake, a hot and spicy sauce, some pickled vegetables and a sesame, salt and pepper sauce.
Then the waitress brought the biggest bowl of frozen, raw, shaved beef that I have ever seen. It was like a Mongolian BBQ bowl on steroids! I started to think, "How are we going to eat all of that meat?" Before I could finish that thought though, the waitress pulled out another large plate of meat and dumped it on the grill on the middle of the table. That's a lot of meat!!! (Please hold back your "That's what he/she said!" jokes.) There were also large plates of green onions and mushrooms to grill up with the meat.
We grilled up the meat and slapped it into the turnip paper or rice paper. I preferred the rice paper. It kind of reminded me of a cooked won ton wrapper but a little stickier. We then dipped the meat and wrapper into the sauces. DELICIOUS! One sauce was basically sesame oil with salt and pepper in it. The other was a spicy puree of hot red peppers, garlic and vinegar. It had a very good spiciness level and a nice tangy flavor. I enjoyed dipping my meat into both of the sauces at the same time. (Don't say it.)
Halfway through our meal, the waitress brought a giant bowl of soup and a bunch of smaller bowls to serve it into. The soup looked like a bowl of bright red liquid with large chunks of fish and tofu in it. From what I understand, the main ingredients of the soup were kimchi and fish. The soup was interesting. It was a little too fishy for me though. We also got a little scared to eat it when M got a fish bone stuck in her throat. She was happily enjoying her soup when her eyes suddenly opened wide and started watering. She started drinking water, eating rice and eating various other things to try and force the fish bone down. She said, "I can feel it! It's like two inches long!" (Stop giggling!) It took a few minutes of what looked to be a very uncomfortable situation before she finally started to feel better. The chunks of fish in the soup had tons of bones sticking out of it. If you ever order this, make sure to eat it VERY carefully.
In the end there was actually a little meat left over. The eight of us couldn't finish it off. Everyone seemed to thoroughly enjoy their meal, except for the whole "bone in the throat" incident. The meat was tender, juicy and delicious. This was a nice little restaurant with a broad range of clientele. I'll have to go back to this place and sample some of the other items on their menu.