There's often an inverse relationship between the quality of the decor and the quality of the food at ethnic joints, and Hae Woon Dae proves the rule. Aside from private paper- and wood-screened Japanese Tatami-style rooms, Hae Woon Dae is a utilitarian storefront filled with black metal chairs, faux granite patterned tables, Asian souvenir store kitsch and a jungle of potted greenery.
In contrast to the spartan decor, the food is an exquisite, never-ending buffet. Choose from a long list of pre-seasoned and marinated meats, vegetables and seafood: Soy-garlic-infused kalbi short ribs,$15.95, or sesame-marinated bulgogi sirloin strips, $14.95, are excellent.
Once you've made your selection, a bucket of live coals recalling the hottest place in hell is brought to your table. Throw your selections on the grill, order up a few glasses of the Korean Budweiser, OB beer, and live the suburban backyard dream. The kitchen fleshes out your meal with a dozen plates of complimentary Panchan- and Korean-style appetizers, including kim chi, red chili-infused fermented cabbage. If you'd rather skip the smoke, try the bi bim bop, an earthenware pot of sizzling rice, spicy vegetables and/or meat and a poached egg.
Hae Woon Dae is an excellent place to score some stomach-lining eats after a particularly raucous night of drinking. In fact it only seems to get packed late at night, which makes it a great alternative for an early Friday or Saturday night without reservations. Entrees and BBQ items range between $7-$30, with most selections averaging $16.
Average cost: $10-$20
Centerstage Reviewer: Michael Nagrant