I’ve been long overdue for another review, so let’s get to the meaty goodness. Today I present to you a review of Arirang Garden, a Korean restaurant in Lexington, Kentucky.
I’ve had a long history with Arirang Garden and consider it one of the better Korean restaurants I’ve visited. I was first introduced to the restaurant by fellow Koreans I met during my freshman year in college. Since then, it’s been a longtime favorite by my family as well as friends. So on December 3rd, when I made my way back to Lexington to visit my friends, we arranged to eat at Arirang Garden.
Inside Arirang Garden, you’ll find a humble Asian-inspired atmosphere decorated with wood/bamboo furniture and randomized placements of silk plants. Unique green tables are placed all over the restaurant with built-in grills and overhead exhausts for each one. If you’re wondering what these are for, it’s for the Korean BBQ. Of course a Korean restaurant wouldn’t be complete without an accent of random Korean trinkets.
Like most Korean restaurants, Arirang Garden offers a nice assortment of common Korean dishes with detailed descriptions of each item. Their menu consists of various soups, rice dishes, noodle dishes, as well as a list of various Korean BBQ entrees. For those who are inexperienced with Korean food, there are pictures of various dishes lining the wall above the bar to help you decide. But this review isn’t going to be about those dishes. It’s going to focus on Arirang’s Korean BBQ.
Korean BBQ is one of the cuisine’s most popular dishes. Depending on the type meat, it’s available in marinated or non-marinated form. Luckily Arirang Garden provides a nice assortment of Korean BBQ in beef, pork, chicken, or seafood. For $15.95 and up, you get a choice of meat from their menu. A combination of meats (dinners for two) are available for $39.95 – $49.95. While those prices may not seem much of a deal, that is the typical price of Korean BBQ anywhere you go. However I’m going to let you in on a secret. Well it’s not actually a secret but to the locals, it’s known that Arirang Garden actually has an all-you-can-eat buffet on the weekend evenings (Friday – Sunday) that includes bulgogi (sweet, marinated beef), kalbi (sweet, marinated beef ribs), hyer gui (cow tongue), dak bulgogi (marinated chicken), daeji gui (spicy, marinated pork), samgyupsal (sliced pork belly), shrimp, squid, scallops, soup, banchan (side dishes), and more for $24.99. I firmly believe that you will not find a better deal for Korean BBQ anywhere else in the country.
My friend Brian, whom I used to frequent this buffet with, nicknamed this buffet “Meat Poisoning” and the name has caught on within our circle of friends. As bad as it sounds, you don’t actually get “poisoned” over the food. The nickname is in reference to the amount of food we eat in one sitting to the point where you feel sick. I can attest that I’ve definitely eaten at least a $100 worth of food on numerous occasions if I were to get each meat separately.
Depending on the number of people in your party, you will be seated at a table with one or two grills with four people to a grill. Extremely large parties are accommodated to a longer table in the back of the restaurant. The grill is powered by a mix of fuel and charcoal and takes a couple minutes to heat up. Unfortunately I’ve found that almost each time I’ve visited, there were problems with at least one grill not heating up to a temperature to cook the raw meat. While the grill heats up, you help yourself to the buffet line to pick meats and vegetables to cook over the grill as well as other side dishes of your choosing.
As for the service, it could use some work. Our table often had to flag down a waiter/waitress to address our empty glasses and our malfunctioning grill (three times). I did notice that parties not having the buffet usually had their table tended to more often. I know we are serving ourselves and that mechanical issues can arise with the grill but I would at least like to see some effort on keeping the drinks refilled. That’s my only “beef” with Arirang Garden.
To make up for the service though, the food is fantastic. My favorite is the kalbi, which like the beef bulgogi, exhibits a sweet, smoky flavor after being cooked on the grill and the samgyupsal, a Korean favorite which is essentially uncured bacon. When inquiring what my friends thought (some of them new to Arirang Garden as well as Korean cuisine), they all claimed to have enjoyed their dinner.
If you’re serious about Korean BBQ, call yourself a true carnivore, or just plain love ethnic foods, Arirang Garden‘s BBQ buffet is the best value for your money. Some people might not like the idea of having to pay to cook your own food, but it’s all about the unique experience. What better way is there to experience Korean BBQ over a grill than socializing and enjoying it with your friends and/or family?
109 Mount Tabor Road
Lexington, KY 40517
Bill Total:$24.99 Per Person For Buffet