Although a plethora of Koreans live in Fullerton and the areas surrounding the city, for some reason it can be quite the hassle to find good Korean food. Even more, if you are of non-Korean origins, it can be frustrating trying to eat at a Korean restaurant and understand what they have. Sure, the surge of Korean BBQ style eating has flourished over the past few years, but for those yearning for more than massive amounts of endless meat, the question remains, "What's Korean food?" Luckily, stemming close to the 57 freeway and Cal State Fullerton stands an unsuspecting Korean restaurant for both Koreans and non-Koreans alike. This restaurant is Da Rae BBQ Restaurant.
From the moment you touch the door and enter into this orange dipped restaurant, you get a feeling of relaxation and coolness. The restaurant does a great job in creating an inviting atmosphere, with acknowledgment from the wait staff as you enter. Marble and wood are the predominant elements of the dining room, creating a feel of nature and modernization in one unison furnishing. The huge glass entrance allows ample amounts of natural light to saturate the common space. A flat screen TV playing Korean shows entertains the air, whilst on the opposite wall pictures of food allows diners to see what they're ordering. Finally, you can see signs lined up against the wall reassuring both Korean and non-Korean readers about the freshness of the ingredients and purity of the water: a written guarantee. Overall, the aesthetics convey a feeling of warmth and cleanliness everyone can appreciate.
The wait staff is composed completely of Koreans, and they have a charm that welcomes conversation in both English and Korean. With a smile and an eagerness to please, it'll be hard to find fault in their service. Just remember this a Korean restaurant meaning to follow the Korean standard of service: if you need something, feel free to holler to get attention.
From the moment you order your food, you'll be welcoming not just one dish, but many to cross your palate. As is traditional Korean dining, you receive "ban chan" or "side dishes" before your entree arrives. Each restaurant has different types of side dishes that often change based on season and what's available in the market. Traditionally, kimchi is a staple side dish: a spicy fermented cabbage that goes well when paired with savory sweet meats. There are also lightly seasoned sliced chilled cucumbers with glass noodles and usually an egg dish of some sort cooked with vegetables folded within it. These side dishes are meant to be shared family style with everyone at the table, so if you find something you really enjoy, make sure you devour it! Although these are simply to start your appetite, if you feel a need to, they will refill any of the side dishes by request. This way, you can explore all the different tastes you want without fear of missing out.
Once your appetite has begun craving more cuisine, the distant sounds of crackling start echoing closer to your audio periphery. As the audible delight comes closer, the loud cracks and pops accentuate the notes of flavor coming your way. At least if you ordered the hot plate bibimbab. This signature Korean dish translates as "mixed rice" and is a culmination of vegetables, seasoning, and meat coming together underneath the sunset of a golden sunny side up egg. The plate is extremely hot and will continue cooking the rice and ingredients throughout your meal; therefore, get to mixing and see how these ingredients change in flavors and textures as the meal continues. There aren't many times in dining where a diner can be both audience and conductor of the symphony of flavors heading their way, but when it comes to the hot plate bibimbab, it creates a truly unique and personal experience. These are the kind of experiences where food lovers can take pride in being gluttonous. If you've never experienced something like this, Da Rae is a great start. All the other food items are also quite delicious, including the Korean short ribs or "galbi", which comes out on hot plates still sizzling, or tofu stew (sundubu jjigae). Although the selection is vast and great, the hot plate bibimbab is by far the most entertaining and lusted after dish here.
Catering to the city and demographic around them, a meal here will cost you as low as $10 to as high as $25, although most dishes hover around the $12 mark. Though the pricing might seem steep, after all the food you receive, you won't be leaving hungry or disappointed with the money well spent.
When Da Rae BBQ Restaurant first arrived in Fullerton, it was easy to expect it to fall behind the shadow of its neighbor, Honda-ya Izakaya. This simple restaurant didn't seem like it would make more than a ripple in the huge shopping plaza it occupies; however, with time this restaurant has slowly grown its reputation for quality fresh food to satiate appetites of all who visit. Whether an expat longing for the food of their native Korea or a bored diner looking for something new, Da Rae BBQ Restaurant welcomes all who are weary and hungry to re-energize, revitalize, and remember what good food is all about.
Da Rae BBQ Restaurant
2986 Yorba Linda Blvd
Fullerton, CA 92831