For Lots of Food and Not High Prices, Take the Gang to Coriya

Times Staff Writer

Need a place to celebrate with the gang? Need a place that's dirt-cheap, where the food is great and where you're not penalized with surcharges for bringing in a party of 12--maybe more? OK. Gather up the folks and trek over to Alhambra for Chinese-style Korean barbecue.

At Coriya (that's the Chinese name for Korea) you'll be too busy cooking your own food on the barbecue grill to talk, think about world crises or worry about what the people at the neighboring table are doing.

You can hold a summit of your own about the state of the marinated beef, the meat balls, the crab meat and cuttlefish at the gigantic tables and enjoy.

Nice place, too. Pleasant, colorful, extra-large, loaded with Chinese families and Old World help in a neighborhood that's primarily Taiwanese. Pretty waitresses, who barely speak English, have a warm way about them that would make anyone feel welcome. The approach to the menu is also Old-World, with food appearing at your table to select or not. A seaweed salad was kept, and so were the deliciously fresh deep-fried taro balls for starters.

Germany's Gift to China

You get tea, willy-nilly, but we also suggest the Chinese beer--Taiwan or Tsingtao, from Tsingtao, established, it is said, by German brewers at the turn of the century. There is also Japanese Sapporo, as well as Chinese-made wines at sensible prices.

The only major decision you need make is to figure out what to cook on the Korean iron barbecue that also includes the soup pot in the center of the grill. The Chinese, particularly Taiwanese, who have adopted the Korean barbecue with gusto have added their own modifications to the ancient grill with compartments to separate various foods, thus preventing flavors of seafood and meats from mingling.

The Chinese version also has a built-in compartment for the soup, which is started when the waitress turns on the heat for the grill at the table. There is an ubiquitous pot filled with broth on the floor beside each table, which the waitress eventually pours into the soup pot. Then she adds some of the vegetables, which are allowed to cook while you grill and eat your meats and seafood. The meal ends with the hot soup for a most satisfying complete meal in a pot, especially so on a wintry night.

Your Choice of Ingredients

You can hardly go wrong with the choices of ingredients that go on the grill. You can have a choice of superbly marinated beef, pork, lamb, or go for the more exotic meats, such as tripe, pork kidney, liver or sausage. Among the seafood to choose from you have cuttlefish, squid, shrimp, oysters, clam, mirugai (giant clam) , sea scallops, crab meat. Kimchi, the Korean chili-flavored cabbage pickle, and a dipping sauce of green onion and peppers, mixed with vinegar and soy sauce at the table, come with the barbecue.

Other fish, such as tempura, fish balls, meat dumplings, fish cakes can be ordered separately as appetizers. The vegetables which can be grilled or put in the soup pot are cabbage, green seasonal vegetables, bean curd and enoki mushrooms. Silver noodles (transparent soy bean noodles) can be added to the soup or not, and also come with the vegetable plate. Rice is ordered separately and it, too, is very good.

You can also order a vegetable combination plate (not barbecued), and get crab meat, tempura, bean curd, vermicelli, tomato, fish ball, cabbage and spinach for $5.99. A terrific buy in itself.

The menu also offers Chinese-style Japanese teppanyaki (open grill cookery) which comes with a choice of shrimp, marinated beef, pork, lamb and fish fillets, or the combination of beef, squid, shrimp, fish fillets served with soup, steamed rice, kimchi and green onions. And, frankly, I'm game, if you are.

Coriya, 1200 E. Valley Blvd., Alhambra. (818) 576-1857. Open daily, 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. MasterCard and Visa accepted. Large parking lot on premises. Reservations for large parties suggested on weekends. Meat and seafood ingredients for each plate less than $5; vegetables less than $2.

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