Korean BBQ in Carrollton? (Kalbee House)

30 Oct

Foodies in Dallas know that the best Korean in Dallas can be had in the Korea-town area near I-35 and Royal Ln.  But like most of the northern suburb residents, Korea-town is a destination dinner for me, not conveniently located for a spur of the moment craving.  Casual Plano establishments like Korean Garden and Jin Mi have been satisfying my fast food/casual Korean fixes for a while now.  But the newly opened Kalbee House in northwest Carrollton (almost Lewisville) is the first full blown, full scale, with all the fixings Korean BBQ restaurant to hit the northern suburbs.

Hebron Parkway west of SH 121 is a quiet street.  Other than serving as an alternate connector between IH 35E and SH 121, this street is just another suburban arterial with affluent neighborhoods and plenty of love for Jesus (friends and I have lovingly nicknamed Hebron Pkwy “God’s Highway” for its abundance of large scale churches).  The restaurant scene looks bleak at first glance, Waffle House, Dickey’s BBQ Pit, and Kalbee House Korean BBQ and Sushi?  What on the surface seems to be an unexpected location for boldly authentic ethnic cuisine makes perfect sense upon reexamination.  The SH 121/Hebron Pkwy area is home to two large Korean churches, with Kalbee House almost directly in front of the entrance to New Song Church.  On second thought, it’s amazing that a Korean dining establishment hasn’t show up in this area earlier.

Kalbee House, open now for about two months,  is located in a shiny new strip mall on Hebron Pkwy just west of SH 121. 

pa280005.jpg

Those who have driven in this area might recognize Kalbee’s location as the former home of Lugano’s, an Italian eatery that had a short-lived stint in this area full of mediocre casual Italian places.  On this early Sunday evening, Kalbee’s elegant interior (with full service bar) was a little less than half full.  As is typical in a Korean BBQ restaurant, most of the tables are equipped with an electric cook surface in the center for cooking meats.  The customer base is primarily Korean families, as one would expect, but also present are two tables of non-Asian families.  Before I even sat down, I was already excited by Kalbee House’s potential.  This is a lovely space whose main attraction is something that Texans should easily be comfortable with, sizzling meat platters.  Fajitas, anyone?  The combination of a visually appealing, modern dining space in a nonthreatening suburb environment gives Kalbee the chance to introduce Korean fare to otherwise hesitant newcomers, particularly those who don’t love the hole-in-the-wall grittiness factor as I do.  And hopefully, that sort of customer diversity will give Kalbee House staying power.

Onto the food!  Kalbee House’s menu is both Korean and Japanese, offering Korean BBQ (traditional items like bul go gi, kal bee, eel, and less common items like Kobe beef and prawns), various bibimbap (Korean rice bowls), five varieties of soon-doo-boo (tofu stews), spicy beef soup, kimchi stew, and Japanese items like teriyaki plates, noodle plates (yakisoba and udon), and a full sushi menu.  Faced with so many choices, my indecisive nature took the easy way out: order the obvious on the initial visit, namely the item the restaurant was named after, kal-bee, or beef ribs marinated in traditional Korean BBQ sauce ($22).  Just perusing the menu was drool-inducing.  To speed up the wait time where the empty space on the table in front of me would be occupied by delicious Korean delicacies, I decided to throw in an order of kimchi pancake ($7) for an appetizer, too.

Fortunately for me, the waitstaff rolled out a cart of banchan immediately.

 pa280007.jpg

Banchan are shared small dishes that accompany your main entree, with kimchi being the most well known.  At Kalbee House, you get, count ’em, 13 banchan.  That is by far the most I’ve had at any Korean restaurant in Dallas.  Starting from the top left corner we have:

Top row: cucumber slices in a mildly spicy sesame oil sauce, eggplant slices, daikon radish strips in a sweet vinegar sauce with chili, anchovies with jalapenos and peanuts (watch out, very spicy!), and bean sprouts with black sesame seeds in sesame oil.

Middle row: broccoli florets in sesame oil, seaweed and slices of Granny Smith apples in a spicy sauce, tofu squares in a sweet soy reduction, and traditional kimchi.

Bottom row: pickled daikon radish cubes in kimchi sauce, some kind of bean (size of a mung bean but they were red) in a Hoisin-like sauce, chewey strips of tofu skin, and delicate gelatinous cakes (made from rice flour?).

The banchan were not just great in quantity but also in quality.  The small details like black sesame seeds in the bean sprouts or Granny Smith apple slices as a textural contrast to the seaweed elevates Kalbee above the status of “just another Korean restaurant.”  This is a dining destination.

The fluffy, yet almost greaseless, kimchi pancake further confirms the skill and care with which the Kalbee kitchen staff prepares its cuisine.

pa280009.jpg

The delightfully airy layers of the pancake surround tangy slices of pickled napa cabbage (kimchi) for a little crunch.  I’ve enjoyed Korean pancake appetizers at a few establishments and while all have been tasty, most lean on the greasy side.  Kalbee’s rendition of kimchi pancake left no trace of grease on the plate as we scarfed down this appetizer in no time.  It’s a pleasure for the tastebuds without the guilt of a greasefest. 

Our Korean BBQ beef short rib was sheer perfection.

pa280011.jpg

It’s hard to tell from the photo due to the steam from the sizzling plate, but the chunks of meat have been separated from the bone (though the bone is left on the plate for display) for ease of consumption.  The rib meat was juicy and tender with just a trace of pink in the middle.  The sauce was savory with accenting, not dominating, sweetness.  Kalbee House’s signature dish lived up to its namesake status.  This house knows its kalbee, indeed.

Service was prompt and attentive with the exception of a slight delay while we waited for our check. 

Kalbee House has every sign of a gem of a restaurant: attractive dining area, attentive staff, authentic menu, and most importantly, well executed dishes that demonstrate attention to detail.  I’m lucky to have this restaurant practically in my backyard, but wouldn’t hesitate recommending someone to drive across town for the experience.

Rating: 5 / 5

Kalbee House
1628 W. Hebron Pkwy #120
Carrollton, TX 75010

Advertisements

6 Responses to “Korean BBQ in Carrollton? (Kalbee House)”

  1. Kirk 10/31/2007 at 7:50 am #

    Thanks for the tip, Donna. Looks like a place that could become part of our regular rotation.

  2. foodczar 10/31/2007 at 11:19 am #

    I agree. Now if we could just find a really good, really cheap Italian restaurant hole-in-the-wall nearby, life would be sweet indeed!!!

  3. Nida 11/11/2007 at 5:47 pm #

    Yay, Thank you for the tip, i live right down the street, and have been wanting to try it.. go sushi !

  4. donnaaries 11/23/2007 at 11:32 am #

    Went back to Kalbee House last night for dinner. The cold weather really sets the mood for Korean food. We were welcomed with complimentary roasted barley tea (bori-cha). This time, we tried the BBQ combo for 2 people (which can easily feed 4) with chaedo-baegi (thinly sliced beef), pork bul-go-gi, and your choice of soon-doo-boo (kimchi seafood for this meal) for $29. We chose to have the meats cooked tableside. The chaedo-baegi had lovely marbling and the bul-go-gi nicely marinated. The BBQ dishes came with accompanying vinegared onion slices and pickled daikon radish slices. The banchan, same quantity as last time, varied a little with new items like pickled jalapeno slices and squash with sesame oil. The kimchi soon-doo-boo was a lovely cold weather treat, bubbling hot in its clay pot. We also enjoyed an order of Korean seafood pancake ($14) which, like the kimchi pancake on the previous visit, was low on the grease factor. We ended dinner with complimentary soo chunkwa, a ginger drink served often during celebrational occasions (Thanksgiving, perhaps?). A lovely meal with superb service. Tea glasses were refilled often and staff dropped by every few minutes to aid the cooking of the BBQ meats. For me, this meal confirmed my initial thoughts on Kalbee House being an all around A-rate restaurant.

  5. Pam 11/23/2007 at 6:07 pm #

    I live walking distance from Kalbee, but have been hesitant to try. I definitely visit within the coming week. Thanks for the reviews.

  6. Erinn 10/19/2008 at 8:39 pm #

    Kalbee is great! Love having it in the neighborhood. I saw a comment that said they wanted a hole in the wall Italian place nearby.. try Italian Villa, they deliver and have great food!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: