Gogi gui is a broad term that means roasted meats, or barbecue, in Korean cuisine, and is the foundation on which Gogi Gui Korean Grill was launched about a month ago.
The restaurant’s two signature dishes, galbi short ribs ($14) and beef bulgogi ($12), are traditional types of gogi gui.
I once spent more than a year in South Korea and saw these dishes slow-cooked over pit fires in tiny villages in the northern part of the country. If the cooks had access to Hasty-Bake grills, I’m sure they would have used them.
The short ribs always were bone-in and thin-sliced, and the bulgogi was marinated, thin-sliced and chopped. The meat always seemed a little tough, something I’ve also found true in Korean-style American restaurants.
The short ribs and bulgogi at Gogi Gui Korean Grill were more tender than expected and had lovely flavors, especially the bulgogi, rib-eye steak that had been marinated in a sweet sauce. My wife favored the short ribs, and I the bulgogi.
Both dishes were served in steamy, hot iron skillets on wooden platters. They came with bowls of sticky rice and banchan, a group of side dishes traditionally served with gogi gui.
Our banchan included kimchi, pickled cabbage in a spicy sauce; seared tofu, watery-textured cubes in sesame oil and sweet chili sauce; sesame cabbage, cabbage tossed in Korean ginger and sesame oil dressing; and kongnamul, nutty-flavored soybean sprouts with sesame oil and kosher salt.
The banchan dishes were served before the entrees, but co-owner Samon Xiong said they are meant to be eaten with the meal, not as appetizers.
“You can pick a banchan to give your meal a sour note or a sweet touch to pull the flavors together,” Xiong said.
Short ribs and bulgogi were two of the four traditional dishes on the menu. A fusion side also had four entrees, and I chose bulgogi tacos ($10), which were delicious.
The platter included three large tacos filled with spicy pork bulgogi, tangy Asian slaw, cilantro, crispy noodles and queso fresco cheese. The tacos showed terrific layers of flavors and a lingering heat on the tongue.
Our server, Nou, said she is Hmong — an Asian ethnic group from the mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand — and just moved to Tulsa. She was congenial and efficient.
Samon, who has a computer design degree from Oregon State University, runs the front of the house, and his brother, Saya, who has a criminal justice degree from Portland State University, heads up the kitchen. Christian Cortes, whose background is in Mexican cuisine, is sous chef.
“It’s common on the West Coast to see Korean and Hispanic fusion restaurants,” Samon said. “It’s difficult and time-consuming to prep these dishes. You can’t just buy something frozen and throw it into the fryer.
“We ferment our kimchi weeks on end, and we sweeten our marinades with Asian pears, currants and honey instead of sugar.”
The beverage list includes bubble tea, slushy-style drinks in various flavors that have large, chewy pearl tapioca balls added to the mix.
The Xiongs’ parents operate neighboring Thai Cuisine. There is a pass-through between the two restaurants, and they share the same kitchen.
“Saya was a chef on the West Coast for 10 years, and I was working for a firearms company out of Illinois when my brother called and said he wanted to start a restaurant,” Samon said.
“Thai Cuisine wasn’t using this extra space much, so they let us have it. It was hard to make it look like we wanted, but we did what we could.”
Gogi Gui has no frills but is modern and comfortable. Concrete block walls are painted charcoal. One wall is made of wood planks, and a wood-plank feature hangs on another wall.