Not your typical Carolina barbecue
By: Jennifer Zeleski
Kimchi. Bulgogi. Bibimbap. Stone pots. If you’re lost, not to worry, I was too. Luckily, if you’re unsure how to pronounce any of these, the menu is numbered.
Back in April when I was first exposed to Korean-style cuisine, I had no idea what to expect.
Downtown Greensboro hosted the North Carolina Korean festival fit with K-pop dance performances, cups of rice topped with shredded nori and some of the best tacos I’ve ever tasted. Yes, Korean-style barbecue tacos. While attending the festival, I was handed a flyer for High Point Korean BBQ, a new restaurant that was welcoming the community to their grand opening on April 23. A relatively young addition to a small strip mall tucked behind The Biscuit Factory and Carolina’s Diner.
Recently, I found myself reminiscent of the sweet spice and addicting soy sauce flavors of the Korean chicken I had a too-short experience with and became eager to try more traditional Korean dishes. This cuisine compulsion led me straight to High Point Korean BBQ, located at 2107 Kirkwood St. #104.
There’s nothing more overwhelming when diving into a new cuisine than having more than a handful of options on a menu. But with well-organized categories, it was simple to navigate through rice dishes, seafood plates and specials. There were a variety of options for any meat you were looking for, with high emphasis on beef, pork and chicken.
It’s hard to deny yourself an indulgent appetizer before deciding on the main course. Ranging from vegetable and shrimp tempura to calamari and edamame, there is something for everyone to get their hands on. I opted for the Pan Fried Dumplings since I’ve only had prior experience with their steamed counterparts. I was eager to try something typical before venturing too far into unknown territory.
To my surprise, before the appetizer, you’re given a tapas-style assortment consistent of traditional Korean bites. If I was going to take a full step into the Korean experience, it was now or never.
The spread included a small salad with ginger dressing, julienned pickled radishes, marinated soybeans, pickled jalapeños with onions, pickled cucumbers (no, I don’t mean pickles) and cabbage kimchi. Note the common theme: rice vinegar. The starters can sometimes vary with an occasional dish of Korean potato salad, amongst other smaller traditional dishes.
Every individual small starter packed a powerful punch of flavor, with each offering a different take on traditional Korean flavors. The kind (and very patient) server described each specifically when I inquired. Once I briefly knew each one, it was time to taste test.
The radishes had a clean, crisp flavor that offered a nice crunch, but I was a bigger fan of their pickled counterpart, the thinly sliced cucumbers. I could have easily eaten a few portions of them on my own. Both could cleanse your palate in an instant and were satisfyingly sweet and sour.
The soybeans, with a slight soy sauce flavor and a dark color paralleled to your average black bean, had an odd chewy texture similar to a pomegranate seed. The remaining two were the strongest flavors, with the jalapeños and onions giving the term spicy a run for its money. I usually steer clear of the ultra-spicy, but it was worth the bite.
The most surprising was the cabbage kimchi, which was an overwhelming flavor that was difficult to describe, and not for the faint of heart or picky eaters. To put it simply, it was like nothing I’ve ever tasted before.
The dumplings made their arrival with hardly a few minutes to spare. Fried perfectly to a crisp, they were served as if they just came out of the oil, and hot enough to burn your precious taste buds. Their quick arrival was a testament to the attentive and friendly service.
I highly preferred the veggie dumplings, mainly because I have a love for well-spiced vegetables, but the pork also had a great flavor. They had a great texture, and to all the gyoza lovers, they’re a must-have. If the rest of the appetizers are held to the same standard – which I think it is safe to say they most likely are – they’ll all be delectable.
With hardly a moment to spare, the main course had arrived. I went for number 11, the Ttukbeagi, or the traditional chicken bulgogi “with boneless chicken marinated with special house sauce,” according to the menu. It arrived on the table in a cast iron bowl, sizzling with a few carrots, onions and scallions in the midst. Once it cooled down enough to be edible (and after some stirring around the bowl to continue the subtle frying), I was eager for my chopsticks to dive in.
The chicken was delightfully tender, with a sweet and savory flavor that pairs well with my tin of white rice. Although it was in a smaller-sized bowl, it seemed packed with chicken, but not quite enough to have leftovers. I made a mental note to find one of the stainless-steel rice tins, which offered a lid to maintain heat, for all of my at-home rice needs.
With so many dishes on the table, it was hard to imagine having been starving before my visit. Everything was offered in the appropriate amount, other than my desire for another helping of the pickled cucumbers and my obsession with white rice.
I was glad I opted for the somewhat cheaper version of my dish on the lunch special portion of the menu, which is applicable from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. only on weekdays. If you’re looking for Korean-style food, and a quick lunch spot that has a small check, you’ve found the right place. However, the prices are higher for weekend lunches as well as dinner plates, so be wary of the tab adding up. Most of the dishes are above $10 on average (during the week and through the weekend), but each offers the tapas starters and a side of rice.
Other dishes included traditional soups (some spicier than others), Chinese-style dishes, and seafood fried rice. Some offering egg, broiled fish, or Korean glass noodles, which are thin and clear (different from Vietnamese rice noodles) with a slightly chewy texture.
Alas, the final traditional offering was ultimately my favorite. At the end of the meal, every guest is given a small cup of traditional cinnamon Cha tea. Disclaimer: you’re going to want them to bring you the entire batch. Topped carefully with two pine nuts in each cup, the tea is what you wished all cinnamon teas taste like. It’s served chilled, with a sugary-cinnamon flavor that could make you long for the holiday season. I promised I would return even if just for the tea.
But of course, if you’d like to opt for an adult beverage, they offer several flavors of Makkoli, a sweet Korean rice wine, including the flavors peach, banana and citron.
With simple flower arrangements and long, dark wood tables suited for large groups, the atmosphere inside creates a classy sense of dining. The restaurant space was relatively calm and quiet, except for the sounds of chopsticks and a bustling kitchen with hot pots, boiling broths and tempura fryers. It’s suitable for business lunches or birthday dinners and can calm your international craving in a hot minute.
Jenn Zeleski is a student contributor to YES! Weekly. She is originally from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Communications from High Point University.
High Point Korean BBQ is located at 2107 Kirkwood Street #104, High Point, North Carolina, 27262.