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1925 S. El Camino Real, San Clemente

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Photos and text by Eric Heinz

It was only a matter of time, not whether it would come. The growing familiarity of Korean barbecue has finally spread to the southernmost part of Orange County, complete with a variety of kimchi, thin cuts of pork and delectable sauces. As the crow flies, it’s the only exclusively Korean barbecue restaurant for 15 miles, with the exception of dishes that are served at other eateries in town.

Several of their dishes include traditional Korean barbecue entrees and starters, including chili pickled cabbage, beef rib soup, fried dumplings, pork bulgogi and stone pot bibimbap.

  • Fried Dumplings: Crispy dough boats filled with meat, vegetables and love. Dipped in a low-sodium soy sauce, the vessels have a delicate exoskeleton and bursts with flavor in each bite.
  • Pork Bulgogi: One main course offered is the pork bulgogi, thinly sliced pork covered in a robust barbecue flavor. It’s an easy dish to share or pair with rice.
  • Stone Pot Bibimbap: Another main entrée, stone pot bibimbap is a grab bag of all things good in a searing hot bowl. Cucumber, pork strips, rice, noodles and sprouts are all cooked with sesame oil and are finished with a fried egg topper. A SK@BBQ server explained the sesame oil, which is lightly drizzled so that natural flavors are highlighted, cooks the dish at the bottom and keeps temperature equally distributed. It’s a familiar take on wok dishes, but it tastes cleaner like a garden salad, and is accompanied by hot sauce.

SK@BBQ opened on Feb. 8 and replaced El Mariachi, a longtime local favorite. The old Mexican eatery left its mark—there are still Mayan calendars carved into the wood panels of the bar—but a new spectrum of dining gives locals a chance to try something familiar, but completely different.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect the astute and vast understanding of Korean BBQ from the waiter who served our table on Monday, Feb. 26.  

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