Restaurant review: San-Su’s all-you-can-eat smorgasbord is a steal

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From the August 1, 2013 edition

1.) “Too many cooks” don’t spoil a thing — they make feasting easier; 2.) It would be silly not to play with your food; 3.) when giving a restaurant your hard-earned money, you should do some of the cooking yourself, but first 3a.) locate the most expensive daily buffet for the best savings.

WHAT?

I’m not giving Bizarro World dining suggestions, I’m describing one of the most fun dinners in Columbus — San-Su’s all-you-can-eat Korean “meat” barbecue. Served everyday after 5 p.m., this $21.95 smorgasbord is actually a steal — and a blast with a group! Since it’s not exactly novice-friendly, I’ll walk you through it. (Note: menu-ordering this stuff would be far more expensive for much smaller portions.)

Once seated in this spiffy but casual establishment, order a 22-ounce OB golden lager ($8). Sticking with our counterintuitive theme, OB is the anti-craft beer, meaning it’s not gratuitously hopped from here to Seoul (where it’s brewed). Made with rice, it’s light and crisp — so it’ll go down smoothly with, instead of interfering with, the imminent array of bold and manifold flavors.

Tell your waiter you’re doing the buffet and he’ll turn on the burner in the middle of your table and you’ll be given a grill grate (which should be changed between “rounds”). Now arrange your “mise en place” by walking to the buffet (there are two) identified by “well-being bibimbap” that contains a bunch of pickled, marinated and kimchi-like vegetables. I recommend getting a big bowl of rice there, but instead of piling stuff on it bibimbap-style, corrall the goodies separately to be shared banchan-style.

After ferrying these to your table, hit up the other buffet for bowls of sauces (fermented bean and gochujang-based), soups (miso and seaweed) plus plates of deliciousness like japchae (glassy sweet-potato noodles with veggies) and sweet-and-spicy sauced chicken bokum. You’ll probably see gyoza, tempura and spicy rice cakes too, but be careful about filling up before the awesome meat onslaught.

Speaking of which, return to the “well-being” buffet and load up a plate with the labeled raw proteins (when I last went, there were five meats and three seafoods), and begin barbecuing. Repeat as necessary.

Since these grill for inequal time lengths, a friendly division of labor works great. The key is searing each one (you’ll be expertly equipped with scissors and tongs) until just cooked-through, thereby ensuring all are beautifully juicy and magnificently tender. With the following tips, this is a cinch (hint: gobble the meats wrapped, taco-style, in lettuce leaves smeared with sauces; eat the seafood either unsauced or with a few drops of seasoned sesame oil).

• Bulgogi — Stir fry these addictively thin, sweet and zingy beef curls for a minute or less, i.e. only until they lose their raw color.

• Marinated Chicken — Sear these spicy and delicious nuggets till they barely begin to grill mark (2-3 minutes); clip with scissors to ensure they’re cooked-through.

• Spicy Pork, Spicy Pork Belly and Pork Belly — Flipping once or twice, cook these lusty delicacies for about three minutes (or less), in a manner similar to the chicken.

• Shrimp — Grill these plump and sweet in-shellers about two minutes per side, until they turn from gray to pink; use scissors to help de-shell.

• “Big Clams” — Steam/sear these “oceany”-tasting critters shell side up for a couple minutes.

• Calamari — Uncharacteristically not very flavorful, or worth the bother.

Photos by Meghan Ralston