Korean Food, The Next Big Explosion?

I LOVE Korean food, there's more to it than just Korean BBQ...

About 5 years ago, my business partner and I were approached by a club owner at the beach. His club/lounge went through a few changes and was trying to find a concept that would work. They tried a lot of things and now wanted to try adding Asian food to their menu. We suggested a few things and one of them was Baja style tacos, but with Korean marinated beef. The owner wasn’t too into Korean tacos and mentioned that twenty year olds wouldn’t understand it and wasn’t going to work. We ended up not working with him.

Fast forward 5 years ahead and Kogi BBQ is doing the same exact thing, Korean short rib tacos, kim chee quesadillas, etc. I’m very happy for the Kogi team and glad that they’re succeeding. Because of this, I knew that we were way ahead of our time with the Korean style tacos. Even Baja Fresh is trying their version of a Korean taco and burrito. I wish that club was still open so I could tell the owner that he could have started the Korean BBQ taco craze, but the business is now closed.

I’ve often said that Korean food is the next wave of HOT Asian food. Growing up in LA, I never thought sushi would ever become this hot and hip. If you’ve ever been on Ventura Blvd in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, there’s a sushi bar on each block and Ventura Blvd. goes on for miles and miles. There probably aren’t that many now, but you get the idea. On the other hand, Korea Town in LA is growing by leaps and bounds.

Korean food has its own flavor, very bold with lots of flavor. To me, Thai food has a sexy taste, Japanese food is simple and can taste the freshness, and Chinese food has a wide range of proteins, vegetables, and sauces that are interchangeable, something for everyone. Not to forget Vietnamese, Burmese, Taiwanese, Indonesian, Malaysian, etc.

Why is Korean food a hard sell? Language barrier, names of menu items, and service. The language barrier, when you have an item that’s hard to pronounce, chances are that you won’t sell very many of them. If people cannot pronounce them, they won’t remember it. I'm guilty of that and may not know what the dish is by name, but when they bring it to the table, I can say what's in it and what it taste like. Just don't ask me the name.

It all started with the “California Roll” and not many people can understand it’s success. It’s not just the English name, it has to do with the ingredients too. It’s an easy entry into sushi, although the sushi experts out there will laugh at someone who orders a roll like this when they're just starting out. Just remember how you started and it's not funny anymore...

I always ask people if they like Korean BBQ and the answer is always “YES, do you know a place where they speak English?” Or “I used to go with my co-worker but she got married and moved away.”

If done RIGHT, Korean food could be the next BIG thing. Maybe I’ll open my own Korean restaurant…

Thank you for stopping by and reading my post. If you see value, please pass it along. I always welcome your comments, good or bad.


Anonymous said…
I would love to see more Korean restaurant especially on the east coast. I do have to agree with the language barrier though. The best Korean restaurant I went to was in Ohio. I think it was so good because the food was described well in English. I can't remember the name of what I ate, but I would eat it again and again.
You hit on it. When we lived on the West Coast, we not only got Korean BBQ but other dishes. I used to eat a lot of Kim Chi. Chinese version too.

East Coast is ripe. Start with the Korean BBQ and go from there.

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