Review: Miss Gogi does Korean barbecue without the gimmicks


Before driving to Miss Gogi in the Peachtree Pavilion strip mall in Doraville, I tried to do a little research. I knew, of course, to expect the salty sweet pleasures of tender bulgogi, the Korean barbecue dish referenced by the name, but I wanted to figure out what they were doing differently.

You see, Korean barbecue restaurants are thriving in metro Atlanta these days. This Korean barbecue boom has seemingly led restaurateurs to try to stand out from the competition, some in increasingly excessive ways. At Ari Korean in Johns Creek, gilded steakhouse affectations dominate the interior design and mood. At Char in Inman Park, the owners have cultivated a cocktail-driven nightlife crowd while selling tiny portions of wagyu beef. There are, of course, old classics, including Honey Pig in Duluth, which opened well over a decade ago and still courts a loyal following, and Iron Age, where the low-budget all-you-can-eat price seems to be the main draw.

The two best destinations for Korean barbecue around Atlanta — 678 and 9292 — have more in common than just the fact that they have numbers for restaurant names. They use real wood charcoal for the tabletop grill and source quality meat.

So, it was somewhat perplexing that I could not, at least at a cursory glance, figure out what Miss Gogi’s “thing” was before visiting the restaurant. What was the gimmick? I wondered. The restaurant has no website and very little presence online outside of the typical listing and review sites.

On my first visit with a friend, we walked in not quite knowing what we would get. We found, well, a Korean barbecue restaurant. Maybe that seems obvious. After all, Miss Gogi bills itself as a Korean barbecue restaurant, but it strikes me as distinctly surprising. At a moment when it can seem like every other restaurant in town is trying to be a “Korean barbecue but cocktail bar” or “punk dive karaoke but Korean restaurant” or “steakhouse but Korean to some degree,” Miss Gogi isn’t trying for a gimmick. My meals since that first have only confirmed it. As it happens, there’s just one (somewhat large) difference at Miss Gogi.

If you’ve had Korean barbecue before, the menu will be very familiar. For roughly $30 a person, the all-you-can-eat option includes about a half-dozen meats, including thin ribbons of beef brisket, slabs of pork belly, gochujang-marinated pork shoulder, chicken bulgogi, beef bulgogi, and so on. More choice cuts can be found among the combo meals, which run as high as $179.99 (for five or six people) and offer extravagances like a tomahawk-cut steak with a long, eye-catching rib bone still attached.

When you order, the table will be filled with a familiar selection of banchan: romaine and scallion salads, rice wrappers and pickled radish slices. If you haven’t noticed already, your eyes at this point will be drawn to the one thing that seems to distinguish Miss Gogi from the rest of the Korean barbecue crowd. Namely, the griddle at the center of your table, the place where Korean barbecue really happens, is gigantic. It is neither a gas nor charcoal grill, but a wide flattop griddle roughly double the average size and surrounded by little labels that warn: “VERY HOT!!”

Instead of beginning with meat, the servers here warm up the grill with massive piles of house-made kimchi, bean sprouts, onions, a few veggies and a dish of corn and cheese.

Once the flattop is smoking hot, I’ve found the service here to be a little closer to a Japanese hibachi experience. With all of that cooking surface, multiple meats can sizzle at once (rather than one at a time on a smaller grill) and be quickly moved to the side to make room for, of course, more meat.

In practice, though, this means that flavors here can get a little muddled. If you’re looking for a place where the distinct flavor subtleties of bulgogi marinade sing through in the little charred bits of beef, well, Miss Gogi is not going to deliver. If, on the other hand, the idea of piling up some warm kimchi, chewy pork belly and bean sprouts into a pickled radish wrapper for a kind of everything-at-once fatty food bomb is appealing, then you won’t be disappointed.

As you might guess, the menu’s most impressive flavor bombs don’t come in all-you-can-eat portions. If you visit with just two people, I’d recommend choosing the combo for two, if only because it includes a decadent portion of fatty, marinated galbi (short rib) that plumps up, rich and flavorful on the griddle. You don’t get that with the all-you-can-eat option.

A bowl of soybean paste soup, which arrives boiling with slivers of squash and mushrooms, is a fine option for a side, but not as interesting as the fried rice. At the end of the meal, a server will take whatever leftover salads are in your bowls, dump them on the griddle, mix in an egg and rice, and finish the concoction with a confetti of seaweed and shredded cheese. It’s a messy, almost silly dish, the way it takes every available flavor on the table and dumps them in the kitchen sink. If you believe there’s a time for that kind of indulgent approach — and I certainly do — then Miss Gogi is your place.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Food

Your Memorial Day weekend guide to grilling, eating and drinking
Your Memorial Day weekend guide to grilling, eating and drinking

Get your grill game strong for Memorial Day. / Photo from the Austin American-Stateman Have you really experienced Memorial Day weekend if you haven’t grilled out? Get ready for your barbecue with these recipes, tips and products. Food writer Mark Bittman’s latest book, “How to Grill Everything,” provides tips and...
Elegant dessert uses a familiar cookie at this Midtown restaurant
Elegant dessert uses a familiar cookie at this Midtown restaurant

Pastry chef Lasheeda Perry created the Biscoff Cream Pie at Bar Margot after she was inspired on a flight to Atlanta. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS Dish of the Week: Biscoff Cream Pie at Bar Margot Commercial airline flights are not known as laboratories of culinary innovation, but inspiration can strike anywhere. ...
‘Dietland’ is violent, disruptive and surreal. Enjoy the ride!
‘Dietland’ is violent, disruptive and surreal. Enjoy the ride!

The most subversive moment on television this summer? It might be a cartoon credit sequence for “Dietland,” the new show from Marti Noxon that debuts on AMC on June 4. As it begins, a fat woman struggles up a mountain molded from desserts and fairground rides. She shrinks as she climbs, shedding her shapeless black wrap for a skintight...
Sacramento has a craft beer industry worth writing a book about
Sacramento has a craft beer industry worth writing a book about

Justin Chechourka says that when Sacramento craft brewers make beer, they are chasing their passions, not money. It’s about doing do something they love. “That’s why I equate them to artists,” said Chechourka, whose book “Sacramento Beer: A Craft History” recently hit the electronic shelves of Amazon and Barnes &...
This one recipe makes two of the best cookout buns around
This one recipe makes two of the best cookout buns around

Homemade buns change the cookout game. When I make the effort to serve grass-fed beef, artisanal sausages or even a noble carrot, I want the bun to be of the same quality. So, when I am asked to bring something to an outdoor gathering, I bring the buns - and I'm the hero of the potluck. What led me to this? There is no more egregious supermarket gambit...
More Stories