Bulgogi House

Kevin Kim borrowed the recipe for his marinade. The kimchi is the work of someone else too.

There are good reasons the owner of Bulgogi House purloined some of the secrets to preparing Korean favorites. The kimchi is his mother’s work. With a crisp, piquant snap, the condiment alerts the palate without sending it into a frenzy—a nice, deft touch. And it’s still made at home. As far as the marinade, well, that came from his wife’s family.

“I just add a little more,” Kim says with a smile.

The marinade lends a mellow sweetness to spicy pork, a comforting savor that’s also a bit misleading. Soon flames crackle, though without catching—a controlled burn that flickers in the background, casting a shadow over the meat. Beef bulgogi is grilled without the spice, giving the burly strips of center cut ribeye a rich, almost candied appeal.

Both meats are so tender they swoon on the palate, leaving the realization why the Korean staple has won global popularity.

Bulgogi House opened a week ago, Feb. 18, filling the old Sushi Fly space on Alvarado Street in Monterey. It is already drawing interest.

“Monterey County is like a small town,” Kim observes. “Word gets around fast.”

He knew the value of word-of-mouth marketing beforehand. Kim and his wife also own Sushi by the Bay on Fremont Street.

The menu at Bulgogi House is refreshingly limited. Beef, chicken and pork bulgogi top the list, along with kalbi. There are rice bowls and a few starters, including donkatsu and mandu—a generous portion of little dumplings springing with scallions, steamed and then seared in the pan for a bittersweet trace. 

This makes it manageable, for both diners and the kitchen. And it suits the location. The dining room is cozy, with a couple of two-tops and a few larger tables, as well as stools along the bar leftover from the building’s sushi restaurant days.

By the way, Kim is a sushi chef by training. At Bulgogi House, he applies the same attention to detail in his Korean presentations.

Well, his presentations, his mother’s kimchi and a marinade adapted from his in-laws, who are longtime Korean restaurateurs. It all works out nicely.

Bulgogi House, 413 Alvarado St., Monterey. 920-1251, bulgogihousemonterey.com

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