Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Adventures in cooking -- Woori Village, Niles

I recently celebrated a milestone birthday, and wanted to do so with something out of the ordinary.

I've always loved trying new cuisines, and was made aware in the last few years of the type of cooking/eating known as Korean barbecue. It's not barbecue in the slow-cooking sauce-basted sense; rather you cook your own meat on a tabletop grill that's either gas or charcoal. After much searching, I settled on Woori Village, 8526 W Golf Rd in Niles, for my birthday adventure.

There ended up being five of us, and at 5:40 on a Saturday we were seated promptly. This place is big, and we were in a smaller room with about 10-12 booths, one of three separate dining rooms. The table had a circular gas grill in the middle and a napkin dispenser and big container full of metal chopsticks.

After we told the waitress we wanted the all you can eat (about $23 per person for tons of side dishes and all the meat you can grill), they sprang into action and in no time our table was covered with small and medium-sized bowls. I still don't know what was in half of them, but I tried almost everything. I do know there was seaweed salad, kimchi, some sort of egg pancake, bean sprouts and a potatoey thing. We worked our way through four portions of beef (three different cuts) and a portion of pork belly. Three of us got spicy tofu soup. I'm still not sure WHY, though -- the two people on the outside were offered it, and then I sort of looked quizzically at the waitress and they offered me some too.

Not only was cooking our meat fun and tasty, but the service, while good, was also inadvertently hilarious -- because we had a bit of a language barrier. None of us spoke a word of Korean, and when we asked the waitresses questions, we got answers that contained English words but made absolutely no sense. (Word to the wise: We later found out that "mountain chain" is tripe.)

While this isn't the sort of place we'd frequent, I would definitely go again, knowing somewhat more what was going on and what to expect.

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