Gopchang is Korean for small intestines, and Gopchang Salon specializes in grilled meats – along with other offal.
The offal is what sets Gopchang Salon apart from the slew of other Korean restaurants along a stretch of Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road off I-85.
Vegetarians would do better elsewhere. The same goes for disgusted eaters. Adventurous diners, however, will be delighted.
Like standard Korean barbecue restaurants, each table in this cavernous space sports a built-in grill. It should be noted that during cooking there were no puffs of smoke from the electric grills, and no unpleasant smells wafted through the air.
And, rest assured, your meat will be well cooked. A server runs the grill from start to finish, cutting the tube intestines and other entrails into smaller and smaller pieces, moving them to the side and giving guests the OK, when they’re done.
You have several options for ordering: a set menu or à la carte. The first brings an assortment of small and large intestines, tripe, hearts and abomasum (the fourth stomach of a cow). You have enough to feed two or three people, and it costs $60; the spicy version is $5 more. Each cut of beef, pork belly or pork jowl can also be ordered à la carte, but, oddly enough, the restaurant requires a minimum of two orders.
If you want to sample everything, stick with the set menu.
The spicy versions (especially the small intestines) tempt with the savory heat induced by the gochujang. Because the meat must be cooked in a sauce, it is mostly prepared in the kitchen, with final cooking on a portable tabletop burner.
As soon as we ordered our meat, the parade of banchan began. The range of side dishes at Gopchang Salon is not abundant, but it is balanced. You’ll find punchy fermented cabbage (baechu kimchi), green onion salad and spicy bean sprouts (kongnamul muchim) with red flecks of gochugaru. A saucer of chilled corn kernels with a scattering of blueberries in a creamy coleslaw-like dressing was an unexpected foil to grilled meats, while a pile of mint-marinated Korean perilla leaves, sliced with thin rounds of daikon radish, was a fine palate cleanser between bites of fatty large intestines and beef hearts.
While you wait for the meat to grill, enjoy a bowl of seafood and tofu stew that’s more tofu than seafood.
The Korean Food and Snacks section of the menu offered more ways to prepare a meal.
Somyeon wheat noodles in glazed radish water kimchi (dongchimi noodles) was a refreshing refreshment.
Another cold dish, a seasoned sea snail salad, was a delicious presentation of chilled somyeon twirled in nests and arranged around a mound of snail meat, zucchini and onion strips, rings red and green chili peppers and wilted perilla leaves – all tossed in a candy, spicy chili sauce. It was surprisingly light and clean.
The seafood pancake (haemul pajeon) was thicker and more starchy than most, although the outside was perfectly crispy. I would have liked to find more than two shrimp – green onions too – among the eight generous slices.
An order of fried chicken gizzards brought a pile of fried nuggets of chewy goodness that disappeared faster than any other snack.
What didn’t go away was an order of kimchi fried rice that wanted vegetables. Its spicy and salty flavor goes well with grilled and fatty pork belly.
Among drinks, soju – the clear, colorless Korean liquor made from rice – ranges from low budget ($14) to big budget Hwayo 53 ($110). Other alcoholic beverages include bottled beers and a handful of Korean wines. Our server’s recommendation of a raspberry wine to pair with the grilled meat turned out perfect. All the wines are slightly sweet, but the Seonunsan Bokbunja was less so, offering the flavor of fruit vinegar.
Gopchang Salon doesn’t offer the kind of meals you’d want to eat alone or every day, but if you’re looking for the ultimate offal experience, knowledgeable staff are ready and waiting for you. And, when the waiter asks: “Do you know what we serve? you can nod impatiently.
Food: Korean barbecue, specializing in beef intestines
Service: helpful and patient
Best Dishes: Assorted Grilled Gopchang, Spicy Grilled Gopchang, Grilled Pork Belly, Seafood Soft Tofu Stew, Fried Chicken Gizzard, Seasoned Sea Snail Salad
Vegetarian dishes: kimchi fried rice, cold kimchi noodle soup with radish water, side dishes, white rice
Alcohol: bottled beer, Korean wine and soju
Price scale: $$$
Credit card: all major cards accepted
Hours: 4pm-11pm Monday to Thursday, 4pm-midnight Friday to Saturday
Car park: large parking lot in the shopping center
MARTA Station: nothing
Reservations: not necessary
Wheelchair access: yes
Noise level: calm
Outdoor dining: Nope
Go out: not recommended
Address, phone: 2850 Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road, Suwanee. 678-765-7922