Restaurant Review: San-Su

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

I was aroused by the scent of searing meats the minute I reached the completely crowded parking lot at San-Su. Those enticing aromas caused me to break out into a veritable jog as I feverishly made my way past generally expensive cars.

Inside, the spic-and-span, new Korean-barbecue-specializing place was buzzing with activity - and more tempting sights and smells. A large, polished and attractive space, San-Su has crisp white walls holding wooden masks plus framed glass boxes containing what looked like shiny, ceremonial children's outfits. Above the bright walls were pretty, highly glossy wooden beams.

There's also a striking little sushi bar topped by a shellacked green ceramic roof riffing on bamboo logs. But the most prominent feature in San-Su was the seating - lots of big, roomy booths, each equipped with a heavy-duty black granite table bearing a sizzle-happy grill in the middle. Welcome to the best Korean barbecue restaurant in Columbus.

Korean barbecue is a partially DIY approach to dinner whereby diners perform the duties of flipping pre-seasoned and carefully marinated proteins on their built-into-the-table (and cleverly non-smoke-emitting) grills. It's like dinner and a show (you perform yourself) all wrapped into one - and at San-Su, I found this to be delicious fun.

Oh sure, you can order fully prepared items from San-Su's huge menu, like good sushi and excellent Korean classics such as Bi Bim Bap. But concentrating thusly at a place so brilliantly devoted to Korean barbecue seems to be missing the boat.

I found the easiest path to a great time here was ordering a predesigned special dinner for two ($53 - it would easily feed three), like the Su which I'm going to describe.

It starts off with a panoply (13) of wild, tapasy, condimenty dishes placed around the grill like numbers on a clock. These might taste fiery, sweet, vinegary, rich or fermented, or combine several of these traits in a single gulp. They're a ton of fun.

Next, a huge tray of perfectly marinated meats will be wheeled out. One at a time, these will be tonged onto your grill and turned by you. Relax. Err on the side of excessive flipping, remembering you only want the meats to lose their raw color - do not overcook!

Here's another tip: When the foil on your grill grate starts to darken, grab the attention of any of the many roving servers and ask for a replacement - you'll need at least four to get through the meal.

Along with precooked items like rice, an unadorned steamed egg casserole and a "pot" dish (pick the Kimchi Jjigae - an outstanding spicy cabbage and pork soup), you'll get these grillers: chicken (deboned thigh cutlets, teriyaki-like and tender beyond belief); bulgogi (addictive, sweet soy and sesame oil-flavored curls of super-juicy beef); and Cha dol bae gi (fine beef sliced thin as bacon).

The beef components are probably best enjoyed enveloped like a taco in the provided lettuce leaves, accompanied by racy condiments.

For excellent food and excellent (self-made) entertainment, it's hard to beat San-Su.


1138 Bethel Rd., Northwest Side


Cuisine: Korean

Patio: No

Price: $$ ($10-$20 per person)

Hours: 11:30 a.m.-12 a.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Sunday