2017-03-16 / On the Town

Do-it-yourself done right at Janchi Korean BBQ

Ela Lindsay

AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCE—This beautifully plated portion of galbi is ready to be grilled. The marinated barbecue short rib meat is one of the many sumptuous offerings at Janchi Korean BBQ in Thousand Oaks. AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCE—This beautifully plated portion of galbi is ready to be grilled. The marinated barbecue short rib meat is one of the many sumptuous offerings at Janchi Korean BBQ in Thousand Oaks. Conejo Valley residents have a unique and delicious culinary adventure in store for them at Janchi Korean BBQ in Thousand Oaks.

Somewhat hidden from view in the Janss Marketplace, Janchi is flanked by two patios and has a remarkable mountain view at the south end of the mall close to Conejo Boulevard. The restaurant occupies the space that was formerly home to TGI Fridays and DISH.

Once inside, the simple, clean lines of the square booths, the shiny industrial ceiling and the modern interior creates an organic feel that’s inviting as well as soothing.

Janchi offers what Kevin Lee, general manager and son of co-owner Richard “Tomo” Lee, says is the real deal, “an authentic, self-grilling experience using quality ingredients.”

The real surprise for me was seeing grills actually built into each table. I had a preconceived notion that I would be standing at a buffet style counter and selecting food to be grilled by someone else at the end. This is not the case at Janchi.

This is indeed a real Korean barbecue experience, not an all-you-can-eat proposition, although, trust me, you won’t leave hungry.

Like any fine restaurant, you select appetizers, entrees and sides from the menu, which in Janchi’s case offers something for everyone in the family. And the great thing is, no matter which items you choose, they are sure to be the freshest available and prepared in-house, like the excellent and popular galbi, a superb marinated short rib which turned out to be one of my favorites.

Seafood lovers will be impressed with the freshness of the shrimp, and there are also choices for vegetarians. The menu features ready-to-grill offerings as well as excellent prepared options.

In my case, along with a Janchi combo special, which includes rice, salad and side dishes, the pan-fried pork dumplings were among the best I’ve ever tasted, and the japchae stir-fried glass noodle dish with beef and vegetables was a delightful addition.

Although the grill-your-own concept at a restaurant might be new to many locals, in Korea it is a traditional way to dine. Janchi is Korean for “to feast with family and friends.” And along with Paul Hsiao, part owner of Janchi, the Lees wanted to introduce their Korean dining heritage to the Conejo Valley.

Tomo Lee is no stranger to pleasing customers. He also owns the nearly two decades old Tomodachi Japanese restaurants in Westlake and Newbury Park. In addition, Lee has been a resident of the area for decades. His son lives in Newbury Park, and they realized local residents are ready to try new-to-them concepts.

Diners can expect to receive a slew of small and large plates, which might be intimidating if it were not for the pleasant and attentive servers—who are there every step of the way to instruct and assist.

For instance, Korean server Jin Youm was well-versed in the process and, I might add, extremely patient with the diners. She explained the sauces, which include a spicy chili paste, pickled veggies and a sesame oil that was good enough to want to bathe in. She used scissors to cut large pieces of meat into bitesize chunks before placing them on the grill.

A lovely array of accompanying crisp and tasty authentic treats include kimchi—a traditional fermented Korean side dish of seasoned vegetables—along with pickled radishes and several others, each one a treat on its own.

But the pièces de résistance were the exquisite meat and seafood offerings, which come raw and pleasantly presented, such as the popular bulgogi skirt steak, the thinly sliced prime brisket and the to-die-for short rib.

After Youm fired up the table grill, we were off. The sizzle, aroma and interaction are all part of this lovely Korean tradition, as are the exquisite proteins grilled exactly how you like them, because, once you get the hang of it, you’re on your own. This part of the overall experience is a blast and elevates “dinner and a show” to a whole new level.

Janchi Korean BBQ at 165 N. Moorpark Road is open daily for lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner is served from 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and till 11:30 p.m. Fridays. On weekends the restaurant opens at 11:30 a.m., closing at 11:30 p.m. Saturday and 9 p.m. Sunday.

For more information, call (805) 370-1777 or visit janchibbq.com.

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