With its intense flavors — spicy and savory, with a healthy dose of fermented acidity just to keep things interesting — Korean cuisine done well is a wonderful food adventure.
Gogi, a recently opened Korean restaurant in Chandler, is the new kid on the block when it comes to Korean dining in town. Compared to longtime favorites Chodang and Hodori, Gogi is fresh and new — the interior is decorated with a variation of dark and darker hues, creating a modern and trendy atmosphere in an open and airy dining room.
When it comes to the menu, Gogi offers all the usual suspects. There are sizzling meat dishes, rice bowls with a wide variety of toppings, and soft tofu soups.
After inquiring about a few of the dishes we saw other customers enjoying, we decided to try an order of beef bulgogi, a hot stone rice bibimbap bowl with mushroom soon tofu soup, and beef rib stew.
Our table wasn't empty for long as the banchan, or small side dishes served with most every Korean meal, arrived quickly. Though banchan are traditionally to be eaten with rice during the meal, we couldn't help but sneak a few bites while waiting. The lineup included squid, bean sprouts, bamboo, and broccoli, each treated in a unique way.
Considering the restaurant's name, we had high expectations for Gogi’s beef bulgogi dish. The thinly marinated and sliced sirloin arrived on a sizzling iron plate and the first bite proved to be tender and well flavored. There was nothing especially new or distinctive about Gogi’s bulgogi compared to other bulgogi we’ve had, but it was a solid dish overall.
The beef rib stew is a stand out. Two enormous beef ribs poked out from a light broth in a massive stone bowl. The broth was the most delicate flavor we had during the meal, and the meat was tender in a way that can be achieved only by cooking it directly in the soup.
Eventually, we ditched our utensils in favor of picking up the beef ribs and eating them Flintstones-style. There was a small portion of clear noodles in the soup, but their presence was hardly noticeable. All the components of this dish could have used a bit more flavor, but the dish was hearty and comforting.
The hot stone rice bibimbap came out on an impressive shallow clay bowl (because you can never have enough heavy stone dishware). Bibimbap is a signature Korean dish of sautéed and seasoned vegetables, red chili paste, and a fried egg, all served over rice. What makes Gogi’s bibimbap particularly memorable was the rice's crispness, created by the hot stone pot.
As if the hot stone rice bibimbap were not enough, the order also came with soon tofu soup, a classic Korean soup with soft tofu and a spicy, bright red broth. We opted for the mushroom soon tofu soup and used the broth to flavor the white rice that came with our entrees, as well as to loosen the crispy rice on the sides of our hot stone rice bowl. The soup was flavorful and a nice addition to the whole meal, but the broth was not quite as spicy as we would have liked.
After trying an array of dishes at Gogi, we recommend approaching the menu family-style in order to get the most varied and flavorful experience possible. In the future, Gogi will be on our list of solid Korean restaurants to visit in the Valley whenever our taste buds need a wake-up call.