Is the third time the charm when it comes to having a KBBQ spot stick around in Newhall? That is definitely the goal for the latest iteration of the space on Lyons Avenue which was first known as Bull Pan, then OK BBQ & Sushi, and is now going by the name Red Castle Korean BBQ 4. This location is now part of the small Red Castle chain which originated in Rowland Heights, and it might just be a real winner!
I love Korean BBQ so much. Too much? When I finished graduate school in 2010, I could have chosen anywhere to go eat after the graduation ceremony, yet I chose Park’s BBQ in Koreatown, and after I wrote about it on my original blog, they posted a link to it on their website which was exciting! I find myself having Korean BBQ about once a month or so, and I don’t have a designated place, I mean there’s Park’s for special occasions and the safe bet in Road to Seoul but my friends and I are always down to try new spots that seem to pop up in KTown all the time. In college, we had Pine Tree and Shik Do Rak down the street, and when I go to Banff I make it a point to eat at Seoul County Korean. When I don’t feel like leaving town, I alternate between Charcoal and Gogi House (which was the first to bring KBBQ to town and offers the best variety).
Yet in conversations with people about food and favorite foods, etc, I’ve realized that many have never tried Korean BBQ and the number one reason they give is that it is too expensive. The second reason I hear is that people don’t want to have to cook their own food. Red Castle can’t help you with that second excuse, but it can definitely help with the first.
Let me tell you what sets Red Castle apart from other KBBQ All You Can Eat restaurants: THE PRICE. The menu is separated into three options, each with their own price point. Menu 1 with 19 items is only $10.99, which I assumed was a lunch price. Nope! Turns out you can order menu 1 all day every day and it will only cost you $10.99. Menu 2 has 30 items and is $12.99. The biggest difference is the addition of iron steak, rib finger, octopus, veal small intestines and steamed egg. Menu 3 is $16.99 and has 37 options with the most notable additions of kalbi short ribs, ribeye steak, and cajun shrimp.
As soon as you are seated, a waiter will come over with salad and banchan (side dishes). For most of my life it has been an ongoing joke among friends that I judge a KBBQ place based on their potato salad offering. Well, there is no potato salad here, and their banchan game is pretty weak, even the glass noodles are flavorless. Both times I have gone, we’ve all just picked at the banchan and left most of it uneaten, which is sad when you are trying to balance out the heaviness of the meat with side dishes. Even the miso soup was bland and watery. Which leaves you with the greens pictured above and steamed rice which you can order as part of the AYCE.
On my first visit to Red Castle, my table ordered Menu 2 which was $12.99. We wanted octopus and figured a couple of dollars more was worth it. Some KBBQ places that have lower price points really limit you when it comes to what meat choices you have, they give you the basics like bulgogi and pork belly, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. There is plenty of variety even at the $10.99 level. We liked the octopus just fine, but in talking about it afterwards we realized we would have been okay without it.
On my second visit (with a different friend), we really took time to read over the three menus and compare the options. We decided to go with Menu 1 which had 19 items! More than enough to choose from for lunch.
We started off with the marinated beef belly steak which is most definitely part of Menu 1 (they tried to tell us otherwise, when it is very clearly listed on the menu). It was so flavorful and definitely a must order item. The garlic pork belly was also incredible. We ordered a marinated pork chop (literally a whole pork chop complete with bone) which cooked perfectly on the grill. We cut it up with the scissors provided so we could split it between us. The bacon order consists of two thick slices of fatty bacon which we also cut up into pieces as it cooked.
We absolutely loved the beef brisket which is thinly sliced and cooks quickly. The waiter placed it on the grill for us but we made sure to flatten the pieces so they would cook evenly. As we were eating, in between girl talk about our favorite KDrama (Secret Garden) and KPop bands we kept remarking how all of this was only $10.99. The value is incredible. We started comparing the price to other places and realized $10.99 just can’t be beat. Plus, if you check in on Yelp you get a free soft drink.
There are two sauces at each table, a slightly sweet sauce (which is a perfect pairing to dip the meat) and a spicy sauce. There is a third bottle filled with a mix of salt and pepper which you pour (squeeze?) into the third slot and they come around and fill it with sesame oil.
The restaurant has some quirks. The space has now seen three different owners and it doesn’t look as well maintained as it was when Bull Pan first opened. They still have the round grills that are slightly tilted so the oil drips into a soup bowl with a handle, don’t move it or there will be a huge mess on the table (I might know this from experience). On both of my visits, I was seated at the same table. The first time I thought it was weird my chair kept sliding, but as soon as I looked down I saw that a tile was missing so the chair was sliding on a slab of metal. We also thought it was funny our drinks (soda, soda refills, and even water) were never filled all the way. The first time we thought it was a fluke, but the third and fourth time we thought it might just be something they do. There are a lot of TVs at this place all throughout the restaurant and all of them play KPop music videos which adds to the ambience. This place isn’t fancy and it isn’t perfect, but there is no denying that they offer incredible value. The service can be slow, and it seems like as soon as you are done ordering the waiters will turn off your grill and you’ll have to flag them down to get the check. Both times I have been there, it hasn’t been busy and there are only a handful of tables with customers, yet the waiters seem overwhelmed. So, I can only imagine service might be slower once the place is busier, but that can be said about any new place in this town. None of these quirks bothered me though, evidenced by the fact that I’m calling them quirks and not flaws. I really love this place, and I will be there often. I can’t wait to go there with friends and enjoy inexpensive KBBQ in town and I hope that the lower price point will encourage people to try it out. Unless you want ribeye or cajun shrimp, Menu 1 for $10.99 is the best deal.
As if it wasn’t already a great deal, it also includes ice cream! I’m not sure if you are supposed to scoop your own ice cream or if they serve it for you (they scooped mine but I saw people scoop their own and friends that went mentioned they were encouraged to scoop their own), but it doesn’t even seem to be advertised! By the door there is a case filled with tubs of Thrifty Ice Cream and a container with scoops and some cones. If you don’t know what you are looking for, you might miss it, but it is definitely included so make sure to somehow grab a scoop or two on your way out.
Assuming you don’t have the meat sweats! Obviously everyone at the table must order from the same menu set, and you can only order three meats at a time, which is pretty standard. However, the menu says there is a minimum of two people per table, so solo diners need to find a table to join apparently.
Red Castle Korean BBQ is located at 23410 Lyons Ave in Newhall (across from Vallarta). It is a simple place that is serving up some good value. I’m satisfied, and I think you will be too.