Saturday, April 25, 2009

In search of real beef

My 11-year-old son's favorite meal out is cooking Korean barbecue on a grill in the middle of the table. But because my wife and me are trying to eat as little beef as possible, we often go to a Korean tofu house or a Korean restaurant that doesn't require a minimum of two orders of beef.

I read that Prime & Beyond, an expensive Korean butcher shop in Fort Lee, had added tables with grills. We dropped by today, but they said they don't serve the meat with lettuce leaves, as most Korean barbecue places do. We looked at the price list. Boneless steak started at $39.99 a pound. True, this is prime beef, the highest USDA grade, but it has the most fat and there is no indication whether it was raised with antibiotics and growth hormones. The shop also carries what it calls American Kobe-style beef, raised without antibiotics and hormones ($39 for a ribeye dinner).

Fortunately, one of our favorite restaurants is just down the street. So we had dinner at Gam Mee Ok (Koreans say, "gam-Yo"), which allows you to have only one order of barbecue that is grilled in the kitchen. Gam Mee Ok is unique among Korean restaurants in North Jersey to have a kimchi service but to serve no other side dishes. (Another Gam Mee Ok is in Manhattan.)

After you place your order, a member of the wait staff brings out what looks like a small white vase filled with cabbage and radish kimchi. The radish kimchi is already cubed, but the long cabbage kimchi is cut into bite size pieces and placed in a dish with the radish. This kimchi is so good, it is available for takeout. Gam Mee Ok also is different in that it serves hot green peppers along with cabbage leaves for wrapping your barbecue, kimchi, rice or whatever else you can fit into the package before stuffing it into your mouth. It's a fun way to eat.

Another great dish is the stone-bowl bibimbap: steamed rice topped with julienned vegetables and a little ground beef that you mix up after adding a mildly spicy red-pepper sauce. Gam Mee Ok's version is topped with a raw egg yolk that cooks in the hot bowl as you mix the ingredients.

We also had two small vegetable pancakes and Korean beer. We went out searching for beef and found a filling, delicious meal that was mostly rice and vegetables and just a little beef (shared three ways).

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