I’m going to postpone writing anything about the AEON interview, Chicago pizza, traffic jams, or anything, because there is something much more important and relevant to discuss. Right now I am in pain. My stomach hurts, I feel like I can’t move, and there is a burn blister inside of my mouth. And I could not be any happier. You may recall (or have even been to) a nice little place in Japan called “Top Run Yakiniku Viking,” a sweet Korean BBQ all-you-can-eat restaurant that was like 1500 yen (around $15 bucks). The A-Team became regulars there, among the busloads of Chinese tourists. It truly was one of the hot spots to eat a ridiculous amount of food for a relatively cheap price. It was so good that in my farewell speech on the Spring/Summer IES Sayonara Party video, I made reference to it. Yes, it was that good, and you could eat a lot of meat.
Flash forward to modern day. That is, around 8PM this evening after Mitsuwa closed up here in Chicago (well, a suburb of it). Me and Bryan were shopping there at Mitsuwa, looking around, cursing the many prominent images of Pe Yonjun, making up stories to go along with the Boss Coffee cans, missing boots and skirts, and making fun of the cloudy liquor labeled “Jizake.” Afterwards, we decided to drive down the nearby Gulf Road because Bryan knew of some Japanese and Korean restaurants. About 70% of these Korean places actually ended up being either hair salons or acupuncturists, but we finally drove into one plaza and spotted a restaurant called Shin Jung. Boring sounding name, right? However, there was a large yet subtle sign on the window that immediately drew our attention, so much that it was able to actually get us to stop and enter the facilities. It was those golden words that we had dreamed of, but did not actually expect to see. Those simple words that can draw true carnivore to a screeching halt. That’s right… BBQ BUFFET. And only 19.95!?!?!?! Oh my god I didn’t know such treasures were available here in Chicago.
There was also more explanation inside, as illustrated here:
So me and Bryan walk in, and it’s like heaven. The tables all have the fancy grill in the middle (an actual Korean one, not just the grate that most places in Japan had), and of course the giant hood above the tables to suck up the exhaust from the delicious cooking meat. And the actual buffet? Yes, like Top Run, it had a buffet of raw meat (and side dishes like potato salad). However, since we ARE in America, the slices of meat were actually a lot bigger. Yes, it was amazing.
I could probably write for hours about the intricacies of Yakiniku, and of Shin Jung. However, for time’s sake (and because I’m in a hotel for the night with horrible wireless), I will not elaborate completely on the adventures. Awesome story, however, was when Bryan and I were up at the buffet getting more raw meat to grill, we were looking over at the sushi area (only Cali rolls, but they were really good), and I think the owner of the restaurant, this old Korean lady, thought we were confused. She came up and asked if we needed anything, and then if this was our first time here. It was, so we told her that, and she completely shifted into Professor Bulgogi and gave us a tutorial on how to cook and eat the perfect Yakiniku (Korean BBQ/Bulgogi, in English and Korean, respectively). Apparently we’ve been doing it wrong (or just the Japanese way) by cooking each piece individually on the grill. The way the owner lady showed us was much more similar to Derek’s “mountain of meat” technique. You throw a huge pile of meat onto the grill, and keep moving it around with the metal tongs. This gives you piles of meat (kind of like on top of gyuudon) rather than just individual slices. Then you take your cooked BBQ meat, and place it inside a piece of lettuce. Inside this lettuce you can also put your own mix and match variety of chili paste, green onions, grilled garlic, and sesame oil. The owner lady actually showed us how to do this at our table, and even cooked out meat for us, wrapped a lettuce piece full of meat for each of us, and made sure that we got the gist of it. We officially got the doctorate tutorial on Bulgogi, and it was awesome. And delicious. The owner lady also got one of the other workers to come over with tongs and a pair of scissors to slice up some calbi ribs (prime rib), which ended up being some of the best meat in the whole place.
<img src="/blog/shinjung3.jpg" alt="
Bryan + Yakiniku = a happy man” align=”right”>Comparing Shin Jung to Top Run, I really would have to say that Shin Jung takes the cake. It was only $20 (not including tip or beers, which were ridiculously expensive), had bigger pieces, of meat, better grills, and the service was a lot better. I mean, COME ON! The owner of the lady came over and cooked at our table for us! The only area that Top Run wins in I think is desserts, since we searched high and low at Shin Jung and found no ice cream or waffle maker. Oh god I love waffles.
Brian and I each had 2 huge plates of food, not even including the ridiculous amounts of lettuce and assorted side dishes we also ate. I think this might prove a theorem: whenever 2 or more A-Team members get together, greatness will occur. Everyone, next time you’re in Chicago, go to Shin Jung and experience this for yourself. You will not be disappointed, unless you don’t eat meat, in which was what is wrong with you? This was awesome. I’ll bet it could convert some vegetarians even.
I’m going to check out Mitsuwa in the morning and head back to Indiana in the afternoon. Yay for another boring ride through Indiana countryside. I’ll write more tomorrow or in a few days about what else I did in Chicago. The AEON interview went well; I should find out within 3 weeks. I think I did really well, but of course I don’t like to count my chickens before they hatch and terrorize the village.