Bul Go Gi House feels like it fell right out of "Fast Times at Ridgemont High." The interior is so outlandishly dated that it could easily have been where Ridgemont characters Stacy Hamilton and Mark Ratner shared an awkwardly prolonged dinner, thanks to Mark's realization that his wallet was missing. Every nuance of Bul Go Gi's space, from the vinyl chairs, to bright green accents and wood-paneled walls, is stuck in its own time loop, perplexingly independent of the world outside.
This particular brand of anachronistic decor produces a counterintuitive expectation, though; with decor this zany, how can the food not be fabulous? If a trendy soundtrack and ultra-avant-modern furniture are palpably absent, surely the cuisine must stand on its own. Tiny dishes of pungent kimchi and supple bean sprouts set the meal's wheels into motion. The former is impressively spicy, while the latter is soothing and cool. An ice cold bottle of Cass beer whets all whistles. Plates, inexplicably, have polar bears on them.
Bul-Gal-Bee arrives at the table in short order, sizzling and sighing with smoke and sticky sweetness. This quintessentially Korean dish is nothing short of dazzling in its simplicity. Just-done meat with coveted char-marks is beautifully tender. If the bone cross-sections were edible, surely they would have been devoured too.
Be-Beem-Cook-Soo (left) and Sae-Woo-Bock-Kum (right), however, are perplexing in their sameness. The former is comprised of thin noodles, chicken, onions and zucchini - and the menu promises spiciness - but the flavours therein are undifferentiated and reminiscent of a small town greasy spoon Chinese restaurant's offerings. The latter's promise of spice remained unfulfilled as well. Though shrimp abounded in this stir-fry, these crustaceans alone could not compensate for an otherwise bland melange of vegetables.
And so, Bul Go Gi House plants its feet firmly in a world of antediluvian tables, laminated menus and above-average beef. One had hoped that, based in an imagined reality of bygone 80s movie characters dining under similar circumstances, the entire meal would have been exceptional. This scenario could have unfolded much differently, had the non-carnivorous parts of the meal met with a steadier hand for seasoning. Polar plates and sizzling beef aside, the meal was a promise only half fulfilled.