The 6-hour waits are over. Ready now to try Valley Fair’s hip new Korean BBQ?

The hip, communal Korean grilling experience Baekjeong — the name translates to butcher, and it’s pronounced “peck-jong” — has been a hit on both U.S. coasts since it landed in Los Angeles’ Koreatown in 2012, and then expanded two years later to New York City, where it’s a celebrity favorite.

LA Weekly called it “the restaurant Koreatown didn’t know it needed,” praising its “impeccably sharp service and top-tier meat.”

Bay Area diners got their chance to check it out a month ago, when the long-awaited first Bay Area location opened at Westfield Valley Fair in Santa Clara. It’s been packed since then, with six-hour waits and reservations booked well ahead of time.

We finally snagged a weeknight reservation. Here’s our report:

GETTING IN: This is still the hottest reservation in Silicon Valley, so we’ll share some advice from our attempts to eat here and from the patient, informative hosts outside the entrance. (FYI, they guard that door like Club 54 back in the day.)

Truth be told, the six-hour waits are over only because Baekjeong says they’re over. The wait list is cut off when the estimated wait time hits three hours. And you may not have to wait at all because reservations are now easier to procure.

However, if you’re being spontaneous, and you want to try walking in, your best bet is to arrive very early, as in (A) before 11 a.m. for lunch; or (B) well before 4 p.m. for dinner. Once you get in and on the second floor (via stairs or elevator) you’ll need to stand near the bar until your table is ready.

WHILE YOU WAIT: If you’ve opted for the possibly three-hour wait, no problem. You’re at Valley Fair. You can shop, of course. You can play cornhole. You can grab a lane at the newly opened Bowlero. You can get a cocktail at nearby AnQi, King’s, Mastro’s or Bamboo Sushi. You can marvel at the sheer number of hazelnut products at Eataly. Or you can put your name on another waiting list, at the Apple store, and get any pesky phone problems resolved.

Baekjeong, situated on the second floor of Valley Fair, features industrial chic design, eye-popping colors and some tableside views of the courtyard below. (Wonho Frank Lee photo for Baekjeong). 

THE VIBE: Buzzy and loud, with fairly tight table spacing, so they can maximize the number of diners served. And if “efficient” can be a vibe, it’s that too. Baekjeong moves 1,000 customers through here every day. So the small dishes of banchan and two salad bowls are already arranged on the table when you sit down, and the first tray of beautifully trimmed meat arrives ready to hit the grill mere minutes after you order. And then the next. Keep up!

THE LOOK: Industrial chic meets K-pop colorful in this massive space. As far as we’re concerned, the key decor feature is a very important one, the stainless steel smoke-venting system atop each table grill.

THE FOOD: Baekjeong serves prime and premium cuts, so this is not one of those all-you-can-eat Korean barbecues. On the upside, a trained professional — not you or your dining companions — will be in charge of the tableside grilling.

First, the appetizers. Though you’re here for the meat-o-rama, the popular Seafood Pancake ($18) or the Fried Pork Dumplings ($17) are worth your consideration, and the Beef Tartare ($23) comes with an impressive array of add-ins. For your main course, unless you already have one or two meats singled out, go for Hodong’s Favorites Combo, which offers thinly sliced beef brisket, boneless short rib, pork belly and marinated pork steak. The small ($76) is billed for two to three diners but will likely feed up to four, what with the accompanying tureen of piping hot Beef Brisket Soybean Paste Stew or Pork Belly Kimchi Stew, the cheesy corn and egg sides and the free refills on banchan (kimchi, pickled radishes and cucumbers, apple-grape salad and more). The large Hodong’s ($126) feeds four — or more. Other combos feature all beef (small, $91), all pork (small, $66) or assorted intestines (small, $68).

In a hurry? The Spicy Pork Belly Bowl ($18), Prime Ribeye Steak Bowl ($23) and others combine grilled meats with add-ins like kimchi, bean sprouts, kabocha squash, soy-braised potatoes and gochugaru vinaigrette or sweet soy glaze.

Short ribs on the grill at the Baekjeong location in Buena Park. (Brad Johnson/SCNG archives)
Short ribs on the grill at the Baekjeong location in Buena Park. (Brad Johnson/SCNG archives) 

THE DRINKS: Assuming you can find space on the table amid the banchan dishes, dipping sauces and serving plates, there are specialty cocktails ($14) like the dry vermouth Cucumber Spritz and the Passionate Highball, made with vodka and passionfruit liqueur; classic cocktails ($13); and, in a nice surprise, five signature mocktails ($8), including Mellow Meloni, Lychee Fresh and Blackberry Limeade. If you have a group of six or more, your designated driver gets a free soft drink or other beverage.

DON’T MISS: The brisket is the most-ordered menu item here, with good reason. It’s a prime cut and incredibly tender. We’re also fans of that Beef Brisket Soybean Paste Stew. We can see coming here on a rainy winter day just for a bowl of that. (Until we detect sizzling steak and our resolve weakens.)

GOOD TO KNOW: The cooks, who double as servers, are pros at relieving any intimidation felt by Korean grill newbies. Let them guide you through the menu and the process: They’ll explain the cuts, ask you how you like your meat cooked, suggest which banchan go well with which meats, advise you on the heat levels of dipping sauces, refill the dishes of pickled radish slices and other banchan — and bring forks if you need them.

DETAILS: Open 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to midnight Friday, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday at Westfield Valley Fair, 2855 Stevens Creek Blvd., Santa Clara;

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