There are two ways to approach the Triad’s newest Korean restaurant — the more affordable lunch menu, or one of several pre-designed group orders with a hefty pricetag.
The simply named High Point Korean BBQ, which opened in April, is one of just a couple Korean restaurants in the region. Though some local venues serve a couple of dishes from the peninsula (RIP El Nuevo, the former Mexican restaurant run by Koreans with several fusion options), as well as a select few food trucks, only two other restaurants focus on cuisine from Korea — Dasarang and Seoul Garden. Both are in Greensboro.
High Point Korean BBQ sports a menu robust enough to cover two restaurants, with items ranging from the more common jap chae (stir-fried clear noodles with vegetables) and seafood pancake to the godeungeo gui bento, which the menu describes as broiled mackerel seasoned with salt. The restaurant serves a $26 pork and oyster chef’s special and more than a half dozen soups, including one with bone broth and beef and another that appears to have a whole chicken in it.
But the most interesting thing about the offerings at High Point Korean BBQ isn’t the variety of options — it’s the variety of approaches. Lunch specials run $9-11 for entrees, like two kinds of the ever-popular bibimbap and five different bulgogi dishes. But for patrons who show up with a group of friends or a large family, there are several set group orders available for $30 a person.
That’s a good bit more than even the most expensive of the four summer specials (a cold buckwheat noodle soup and prime short-rib beef combo that costs $20) and it’s probably too much of a commitment for anyone who isn’t already confident that they’re a fan of Korean food. If downing a bowl of kimchi jjigae — a spicy stew with pork, vegetables, tofu, and the ever-present fermented cabbage or radish — sounds like a delight rather than a challenge, then pony up.
Quiet piano music plays in the background of the expansive High Point Korean BBQ, and the restaurant feels more like slightly upscale restaurants 98 Asian Bistro and Hakka Chow than its somewhat divey local Korean counterparts. Like Seoul Garden, meals at the Third City establishment begin with banchan — a collection of small dishes including seaweed salad, kimchi, fermented radish, potato salad, and more. But unlike the Greensboro restaurant, the server at High Point Korean BBQ helpfully named each item as she placed it down.
Everything arrived quickly, the bibimbap with beef still sizzling when it arrived in a stone pot akin to Don Japanese in Greensboro and the broth of the sul lung tang — a brisket and clear noodle dish that tasted slightly bland — still bubbling with heat. The bibimbap, a Korean dish that’s found considerable popularity in the United States, didn’t quite rival its counterpart at Don, but it didn’t disappoint, either. Especially as it appears to be the only option in High Point, it’s a welcome addition.
There are six entrees that fall under the Korean BBQ portion of the menu, including chicken, beef and pork bulgogis and samgyupsai, described as “pork sliced bacon style.” But with the beef bulgogi ringing in at $18 for dinner, it would make more sense to wait for the $10 lunch special or pick the group dinner Course A, which includes beef bulgogi along with jap chae, oyster bassam, kimchi, veggie tempura, scorched rice, a mushroom and beef dish and six sides.
The downside — there’s a four-person minimum on these family-style options. The upside — it’s hard to imagine less than four people, however hungry, putting more than that away anyway.
Fans of Korean food will no doubt rejoice that there’s a new restaurant promoting the under-represented culinary tradition in the Triad. And maybe a couple High Pointers will notice it on their trips to the local favorite Biscuit Factory a stone’s throw away, and wander in.
Many of the Korean dishes will feel like more of a jump for the inexperienced than Japanese, greasy Chinese or even Thai and Vietnamese. But as more accessible Korean BBQ options seep deeper into the American mainstream, the draw will no doubt grow. That could mean more people starting out with the restaurant’s pretty approachable lunch menu and later graduating to the group options, possibly taking advantage of one of the more secluded seating rooms off to one side of the restaurant.
One can only hope.
Visit High Point Korean BBQ at 2107 Kirkwood St. #104 (HP) between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. any day.