Get Your Grill On

. October 1, 2014.

Tomukun Korean BBQ

505 E. Liberty St. #100
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Phone: 734-734-369-2602
Hours: Monday: Closed; Tues-Sun: 11:30am-10pm

There was a hole in the middle of our table. Actually, it was a grill. That’s because my family of four was seated at Tomukun Korean BBQ, a new restaurant where you grill your own meat. Thomas Yon, who has owned and operated

Tomukun Noodle Bar next door since 2010, opened Tomukun Korean BBQ this spring.

Past the bar near the front of the restaurant, we were seated in the open dining room. It was filled with sleek tables and chairs, bright windows, and a hip, college student crowd. Tables seemed close to each other,  imparting  a communal feel.

 I noticed there was no  kids’ menu. However, grilling our own food seemed appealing and I was sure my kids, ages 11 and 7, would find something they would like. Our server advised us to order Combo #1 for $40, which serves 2-4 people. It consisted of 8-12 ounces each of Chadul Baegi (beef brisket), Dweji Bulgogi (spicy pork), and Yangnyum Galbi (marinated short rib). For larger groups, there are bigger combos with additional meats at added cost.

Combos come with salad, rice, and five sides: marinated peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, kimchi, and a dish reminiscent of coleslaw. There was also a smattering of garlic and jalapeño slices with which to grill, plus three dipping sauces: creamy miso, a hot sauce, and sesame oil with salt.

Table full of toddler traps and yummy dishes

Our table was covered soon with salad, sides, sauces, meats, and utensils like tongs and scissors to cut the meat. I flashed back to when my kids were older infants and toddlers, when it would have been a challenge to keep everything safely out of their reach.

If you have young kids, or you don’t want to cook your own food, then there are many other enticing traditional Korean dishes available. Tomukun Korean BBQ offers hot pots like Boodae Jongol (Army Stew), Dolsot Bibimbop (stone rice bowls with vegetables, fried egg, and sauce), Soondubu (tofu stew), Nengmyun (buckwheat noodles), and Bokum (stir fry) with ingredients like spicy octopus.

Grilling indoors

Our server greased our grill, which was recessed into our tabletop, and it was time to cook. We threw on the meats and vegetables,  like asparagus and onion. The kids realized that cooking on your table was fun. They flipped and stirred. They tossed in more meat. They were master chefs!

You can’t fit everything on the grill at once, so we entered an enjoyable dance of grilling, eating, and grilling and eating some more. The kids decided the simple, meaty beef brisket was their favorite. They devoured it, so we ordered an extra tray for $20.

Meanwhile, my husband and I savored the sweet and zesty flavor of the spicy pork. It was cooked well (by us!), yet still melted in our mouths. The short rib was also flavorful and tender. We tasted hints of garlic and soy. The meats paired well with the salad, a fresh batch of lettuce with tangy soy dressing.

The sides, albeit small in size (with free refills), offered lots of flavor. I liked the marinated, crunchy peppers and supple mushrooms. My husband liked the broccoli, peppers, mushrooms, and kimchi, of which I’m not a fan.

“How does the kimchi taste?” I asked.

“Like kimchi,” answered Mr. Eloquent.

Neither of us was taken with the fruit coleslaw side dish, but there were so many other winning flavors on our table.
“I find it so cool that you can actually cook your own food,” said my 11-year-old about the experience at Tomukun Korean BBQ.

“Instead of grilling outside, it’s fun to grill inside,” chimed in my 7-year-old.

The Short Course

Kid-friendly: Yes, but more so for big kids if you’re going to grill
To avoid wait: With its proximity to campus, come before 7pm for dinner to avoid the student crowd.
Noise level: Moderate
Bathroom amenities:  Changing tables in both restrooms
High chairs? Yes
Got milk?  No, but they offer lemonade and soda
Kids’ menu? No
Anything healthy for kids? There are lots of lean meats and vegetables
Food allergy concerns? Servers can work with the chefs to identify ingredients or tailor suggestions for allergies. If you grill at the table, you can control what and how you cook.