Form or function? That's the question when it comes to Korean barbecue in San Francisco — and when it comes to the city's most beloved Kalbi Jip's (barbecue houses), there's no in between. Do you want a clean, quiet, well-decorated place to eat? Or would you rather gobble down your kimchi in a loud, smoke-filled, bare-bones operation?
In one corner, we have Jang Soo BBQ on Geary, which gets very high marks for decor and cleanliness in last week's Guardian. (“Most and best of all, the place seems clean. If you could know only one fact about a restaurant's physical plant, this is the fact you would value the most.”) Say what? What about the food? (“a pile of marinated, broiled meat shaved into strangely shaped ribbons, like scorched rubble from a house fire.”) Ouch. I hope that's not supposed to sound appetizing. To be fair, Jang Soo does score high for its pork and small banchan dishes — which can make or break any Korean dinner.
In the other corner, we have the legendary Brother's Korean Restaurant, also on Geary, which stars alongside Chef Scott Sasaki of Garibaldis in the Chronicle's recent Cook's Night Out. (“A no-frills place with bright lighting and plain wood booths, tables and chairs.”) And while Brother's is often cited as the best Korean food in the city, we can say from personal experience that “no frills” is a generous way of describing the atmosphere. But, oh, the food. (“tender slices of marinated beef and pork on a charcoal grill blazing in a miniature pit in the center of a table …”) Frankly, it's worth smelling like a grease trap for the rest of the night. So what's it gunna be?
Brother's Korean, Photo by Melanie L.on Yelp.