#78: Iron Grill Korean BBQ

It finally happened, we now have a Korean BBQ restaurant in Roseville.  As far as I know the only other one in the area was Oz Korean BBQ at Bradshaw & 50, which is not exactly a convenient location coming from here.  Because of that I’ve not had as much of it as I would like.

My first experience with Korean BBQ was actually in Korea about 3 years ago.  I traveled to visit a friend who was there teaching english and had Korean BBQ the very first night.  It was a bit overwhelming to say the least.  The table was full of little plates and the owner was constantly coming by to add more fresh seafood to the grill in the center of all the clutter.  It was also that night that I realized I would either learn how to use chopsticks or starve.  Then there was the “fresh” baby octopus.

Anyway, since then I’ve mostly only been to Korean places in the bay area, particularly a buffet called Palace BBQ Buffet in Sunnyvale, which is awesome because this type of food can get expensive fast.  So as I mentioned we finally have one close by.  Iron Grill Korean BBQ is located in the Rocky Ridge Town Center across from Kaiser on Douglas.  In addition to to the normal Korean selections they also have a large selection of sushi, including sashimi, nigiri, and rolls.  It’s a good sized restaurant that take up two of the smaller units.  About one-half to two-thirds of the dining room is set up for table-top grilling.  The rest are normal tables and they also have a sushi bar.

I came for lunch with a couple of friends last weekend on a Saturday and we were seated at a table with a grill since we knew we’d be ordering from that side of the menu.  The staff was extremely attentive while we looked over the menu.  Since most of my Korean BBQ experience involved either someone else ordering or serve yourself buffet style, it took a while to carefully go over the menu and figure out what we should get.  During this time at least two servers checked on us numerous times (one of my friends was actually a little annoyed by this, I didn’t mind though).  Before we had ordered, a complimentary roll was served to us.  I’m not sure if this is a standard thing here or just something they are doing since they are new, but it was a nice touch.  It was a mostly crab filled roll, so probably a California roll of some variety.  It was simple but well made, and a tasty appetizer.

Eventually we had made up our minds and a server was right there moments later.  We ordered from the dinner menu and chose three items from the table top BBQ section.  Galbee [(beef short ribs) Our famous short ribs marinated for 36 hours with soy sauce], Bulgogi [Thinly sliced ribeye marinated in special sauce] & Spicy Pork [Sliced pork with our chili pepper paste marinade (available non spicy)].

Before the meat came out we were each served a small salad which was very fresh, green and crisp.  I don’t recall what the dressing was but I do remember liking it.  As we were finishing those up, the side dishes, or banchan, were being served.  There was about a five or so minute gap between this and the main meats arriving, so we had time to explore the four small dishes.  The first and most recognizable one was kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage – a generalization, there seem to be limitless variations out there).  I’ve never been really into the idea of kimchi just based on what it is.  However, I decided that since millions of people regularly enjoy and look forward to it, I can at least give it a fair shot now and then.  I had just a couple bites of this kimchi.  I’m still convinced it’s an acquired taste, one that I have not acquired yet.  I didn’t think it was bad though, so that’s something I guess.  I’ll keep at it.

The next one was some type of sprouts, which after a little searching and comparing online I’ve decided was a type of bean sprouts.  These were good and pretty much what you might expect of bean sprouts.  The next two dishes were much harder to identify.  In fact, I still have no idea what they were (yes, I probably should have just asked while I was there) so if you do, please leave me a comment!  My friends decided that one of them was a kind of thinly sliced potatoes in a sauce.  The other was seriously from another planet.  They were the lightest, most colorless noodle-looking things I’ve seen, and the texture was even more bizarre.  Instead of a crunch, they seemed to “pop” between your teeth.  They didn’t have much if any flavor, but they were so fascinating that I probably ate more of these than anything else.

On came the main course.  Our server brought the three meats on a large, nicely garnished platter and placed the first round on the grill for us.  He placed the galbee and bulgogi as well as some onions, jalapeños and mushrooms. During this and while I was taking photos, a man who I’m assuming was either the manager, owner or both, came by to watch for a moment.  Probably to make sure everything was going smoothly.  Our server suggested we do the spicy pork last as the marinade tends to stick to the grill and can apply itself to anything put on after.  We enjoyed watching the meats sizzle for a few minutes before he came back to give them all a turn and cut them with scissors into more manageable, bite sized pieces.  Eventually we were all picking bits of meat from the grill and going to town.  Each one was super flavorful and tender.  The bulgogi and spicy pork were my favorites, although I also very much enjoyed the galbee.  There’s something special about eating right off the grill which is also why I love teppanyaki style restaurants like Benihana as well.  For the most part we were left on our own to cook the rest of the meats, which I enjoy a lot.  I’m pretty certain they would have been more than happy to handle all of it if we asked though.  I’ve had that type of service at other places before.

My friends seemed to generally enjoy the meal, but they definitely weren’t as happy with it overall as I was.  I just enjoy the experience so much because it’s so much different than anything else.  The smells and sounds of food cooking just a foot from you is fantastic, and it’s worth the price in my opinion.  I don’t recall the subtotal, but after tip I think we spent around $60 altogether, which really isn’t that bad.  I’ll definitely be back.

I asked the server if they had a website, and he seemed certain they did but was unable to point me to an address aside from telling me to Google it or find it through a link on Yelp, which I was unable to do.  I’m not convinced they have one…  If you do and you’re reading this, please prove me wrong.

See below for a link to the menu that I scanned.

Scanned Menu: Click Here

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#77: Cookie Connection

Exterior

Here’s a quickie about Cookie Connection, there’s not much to say here so I’ll let the photos do most of the talking.  I stopped by yesterday to use a groupon that was about to expire and picked up 13 cookies and an ice cream sandwich (which I didn’t know they sold until just then).  The ice cream sandwich is just a scoop of ice cream between two cookies.  They have five pre-set options to choose from and it seems you can create your own as well.  I went with The Chip, vanilla ice cream and two chocolate chip cookies.

Menu
Display

Right as I was paying a big group of people arrived, so I went outside to eat my ice cream sandwich and wait for them to clear out so I could get a couple photos inside.  Sitting at one of the tables just outside in the 90 degree weather it was a pretty nice little treat.  Almost too much though, they are good sized cookies.  Before they had left another bunch of people showed up, and then more, and more… and more.  It was a full blown rush – at a cookie shop.  Everyone seemed to be using their groupons at the last minute like me.  I felt bad for the one person working the counter but she had a smile on and handled the whole thing really well.

“The Chip” Ice Cream Sandwich (Vanilla ice cream between two chocolate chip cookies)

Obviously I didn’t eat all these cookies, even it I wanted to.  I brought them in and gave them to my coworkers today.  I had a white chocolate macadamia and a chocolate chip today from the batch and they were both excellent.

Rascal (Chocolate & Peanutbutter swirl)
Sugar
Peanut Butter
Crackle
Snickerdoodle
White Chocolate Macadamia
Chocolate Chip
Chocolate M&M
Caramello
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip
Oatmeal Raisin w/ nuts
Peanut Butter Chocolate

Website: http://www.cookieconnection.com/

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#76: Fins Market & Grill

For dinner on Thursday I met my dad at Fins Market & Grill, located in the far back corner of the Safeway shopping center at Sierra College & Douglas.  From what I understand they have had a location in Fair Oaks for around 20 years and opened two more locations, including this one, in’06-’07.  Besides sushi and the occasional fish and chips I don’t really do seafood that often, which is odd because I really enjoy it.  I suppose it’s because seafood restaurants aren’t nearly as common as burger joints out here.

The first thing I noticed when we walked in was the smell.  It wasn’t off-putting but it was a quick reminder that they had the market side of the business in addition to the restaurant.  It’s somewhat hidden behind a divider wall that is just high enough to effectively isolate the dining area from the counter.  It was only a few minutes before I had forgotten about it completely.  In the display case I could see big slabs of different kinds of fish waiting to be taken home.  To the right and a bit before you reach the counter they also have a small tank where I saw a few live lobsters hanging out.  We were seated in the lightly occupied dining room and given a moment to peruse the menu before our waitress came to take drink orders.  I hadn’t quite gotten that far and quickly looked at the beer list which was very short.  I ended up going with a Mr. Pibb which was a bit on the weak side.  The beers consisted of two draught and five bottled, none of which I was too excited about.  The wine list was more more extensive.

After looking over the menu for a bit I decided I was going to go with the sea bass.  My most memorable seafood dinner was an order of sea bass on a Disney cruise well over ten years ago.  It was just unbelievably delicious and pretty much melted in your mouth.  I’ve tried sea bass a few times since then and it’s just never lived up to the memory.  We also wanted to get an appetizer.  I wanted to pick something I normally wouldn’t get, or wouldn’t be available, elsewhere and chose the steamed clams.  When I was giving my order to the waitress she had to tell me that unfortunately they were out of the sea bass (as well as something else I can’t recall).  She apologized and said she realized she should have opened with that news.  It turned out that my dad had also planned on ordering the sea bass and we took a few more minutes to look over the menu again.  Finally I settled on the swordfish, which I don’t think I’ve ever had.  The waitress asked if I would like it grilled or blackened, which I hadn’t really thought about.  Sensing my hesitation she recommended blackened and I went with it.

Shortly after placing our orders we received a small basket of bread and butter.  The bread was room temperature and the butter was quite cold.  I went to work clasping my hands together around a butter packet to get it warmed up and spreadable.  By the time it had softened up, our clams arrived.  As soon as they were set down in front of us I realized I had been thinking oysters when I ordered them.  I’m pretty certain I’ve never had steamed clams before so I didn’t really know what to expect.  We were each given little forks to remove the clams from their shells.  Removing them from the shell was extremely easy, in most cases they slid right out with little effort.  I’m not sure what they use to steam them, and we weren’t given anything else aside from a piece of garlic bread each.  They were just a slight bit chewy, but less so than in some clam chowders.  The subtle flavor was hard to nail down, but the thing I kept coming back to was a hint of crab legs.  Like I said I’ve never had steamed clams before, so I can’t say if they were any good or not compared to others, but I enjoyed them for the most part.  The garlic bread was very good, which is probably because it was pretty drenched in garlic butter though still crunchy.  They should just serve this instead of their normal bread in my opinion.

After the steamed clams we were served a Caribbean style cole slaw which consisted of an oil, vinegar and sugar type dressing.  There was quite a bit of it, and I had actually eaten a good 1/4th of it before I realized I had forgotten to take a photo, so hopefully that should give you an idea of how much it was.  I gave up about 1/2 or 2/3rds of the way in because I didn’t want to fill up.  I’ve never really been into cole slaw until just recently, when I had the Capastrami at Capriotti’s in Vegas.  It’s kind of turned me around and I’m willing to give it a solid try when I encounter it now.  This was interesting but I think I might prefer the more traditional, creamier cole slaw.

On to the swordfish.  As a side I had a choice of Maddie’s Patties, scalloped potatoes, rice pilaf or vegetables.  After asking what the Maddie’s Patties were I went with those.  They’re basically mashed potatoes with paprika, garlic, cheddar, parmesan and maybe something else I’m forgetting.  The fish was wonderfully crisp on the outside, most and creamy on the inside.  The oils and spices they used to blacken it were very rich and flavorful.  I found myself on several bites just leaning back and savoring the peppery flavors.  There was a bit of spice on the back end that felt like it might build up if you didn’t pay attention.  Switching off to the Maddie’s Patties every couple bites kept it at bay though.  They were almost a kind of rest stop in that they were nice and mild and gave my taste buds a break from the intense flavor of the swordfish and it’s spices.  The clearly recognizable flavor there was the cheddar, but there were hints of garlic and parmesan as well.  They were very good.  The tartar sauce looked like it might have been house made.  It was very good, and in any other situation I might have used a lot of it, but I felt that the fish was so good on it’s own that I didn’t want to cover it up with sauce.

So overall, a very good visit I think.  The opening was a bit rough with limited drink options, no sea bass and mediocre bread, but the swordfish was absolutely incredible and really made me forget all of that as soon as I was eating it.  I would very much like to come back some time and try the sea bass when they have it to see if it can live up to that one I had so long ago.

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