Chili Cheese Pork Katsu Lunch Bento Box at Kogi Korean BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Korean barbecue is heating up in Tucson.
While 7 Ounce Korean Steakhouse opens on Thursday at Speedway Boulevard and Swan Road, Kogi Korean BBQ quietly opened within the past few weeks up the street in the former Seoul Kitchen space at 4951 E. Grant Rd.
First, let’s make two things clear: Kogi has no association with the food truck of the same name popularized by chef Roy Choi. As for Seoul Kitchen, they haven’t closed — they quietly relocated to the former Third Base Bar space at 6255 E. Golf Links Rd.
Back to Kogi Korean BBQ — it’s a misnomer. The restaurant has no tableside grills, but KBBQ dishes such as bulgogi and kalbi are on the menu. Additionally, the menu includes a handful of Japanese options such as donburi, sushi rolls, yakisoba, and ramen, along with a handful of Chinese dishes such as crab puffs and fried rice. But the restaurant still is mostly Korean.
Most Korean restaurants include banchan, which is an assortment of small side dishes, mostly pickled and fermented dishes such as kimchi. If kimchi was on a 1 to 10 scale for fermentation with 1 being freshly-made and 10 being deeply fermented and funky, Kogi’s kimchi would be a 6 with a higher acidity than a medium-aged kimchi. A little lighter on the garlic and ginger too, but still solid.
The Korean Don Katsu Kim Bap ($6.95) featured a breaded pork cutlet, spinach, pickled radish, carrot, and egg wrapped with rice and seaweed akin to a sushi roll. The side of katsu sauce tasted like a thick Worcestershire sauce with a touch of apple puree sweetness.
Haemul Pajun at Kogi Korean BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)
For a larger appetizer to share, order the Haemul Pajun ($12.95). The thin eggy crepe featured shrimp, mussels, and charred scallions. The accompanying sauce tasted soy sauce-based with a touch of rice vinegar, sesame, ginger, garlic, and gochugaru (Korean red chili flakes).
Lunch Bento Box specials, available 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, range from $7.95 to $8.95 and include miso soup.
The Chili Cheese Pork Katsu Lunch Bento Box ($8.95) included the katsu on a bed of sliced cabbage along with a couple slices of a California roll, white rice, cabbage kimchi, radish kimchi, cucumber salad, marinated cold tofu, and a wedge of watermelon. The name was confusing and the server described the katsu as “topped with Mexican chili and cream cheese.” As it turned out, it was a pounded flat pork cutlet topped with jalapeño and cream cheese, then breaded and fried. If you love jalapeño poppers, then you’ll love this.
It’s too hot outside right now to crave soups and stews, so we’ll be back in a few months to try those out.
Katsu Kim Bap at Kogi Korean BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Kogi Korean BBQ Menu Highlights
- Haemul Pajun ($12.95) – thin eggy crepe with shrimp, mussels, and charred scallions
- Oh Sam Bulgogi ($15.95) – spicy cuttlefish, pork belly, and vegetables
- Kalbi ($19.95) – marinated beef short ribs
- Kham Ja Tang ($16.95) – spicy potato, pork backbone, and meat stew
- Soon Dae Guk ($16.95) – Korean pork blood sausage soup
- Naeng Myun ($11.95) – buckwheat noodles, cold beef broth, sliced beef, vegetables
Operating hours are 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Sunday – Thursday, 11 a.m. – 9:30 p.m. Friday – Saturday.
Kogi Korean BBQ is located at 4951 E. Grant Rd. For more information, call (520) 838-0312.