Chicken and beef on the grill
Update: This restaurant has closed.
Oaks Korean BBQ in Simi Valley, whose sign actually says "Oaks Oaks Korean BBQ," is the only Korean restaurant in the area--the next closest are in Canoga Park. The restaurant is attached to a sushi bar, which seems like it may have been a separate restaurant at one time.
It's possible to order sushi from your table, so you don't have to choose between Korean food and sushi, making this restaurant a great option for a group with diverse tastes. The sushi, however, is of the spicy mayo school of sushi preparation, so if that's not your thing, be warned. I tried a spicy yellowtail roll and while the portion was generous and the fish was fine, I couldn't force myself to eat more than two bites because the rice was too soft and not vinegary enough and the mayo was overpowering.
Beef bulgogi, uncooked
The main attraction at Oaks is the barbecue, of course. The restaurant offers the option of cooking the marinated meat at your table over a gas grill or having it cooked for you in the kitchen. Personally, I prefer the latter, as it leaves the cooking to the experts and makes the dining experience more relaxing.
I always stick with bulgogi, as I'm not too adventurous when it comes to eating meat. You have a choice of spiciness when it comes to the meat marinade, but this being Simi Valley, there doesn't seem to be any difference between medium and hot--neither is spicy enough. It's still a decent marinade, and the pork and beef are particularly flavorful here.
Bean sprout banchan
The barbecue dishes come with an assortment of banchan, which are side dishes like bean sprouts, broccoli with sesame seeds, "spicy" cucumbers, and kim chi. The banchan are not very spicy--I even asked if they had spicier ones, hoping maybe they had a second batch only for Korean diners and others who requested them, but no such luck. You can ask for a side of chili sauce, but it's not quite the same. (I enjoy that fiery sensation on my lips and the sweat on my brow, trying to douse the flames in my mouth by chugging beer and shoveling in rice and meat.) Also, the banchan selection is not as extensive or as exotic as you'd find at a K-town restaurant. Steamed white rice, fresh lettuce leaves, and miso paste also come with the meat. The lettuce and miso are for making wraps with the grilled meat.
Marinated turnip (?) banchan
In addition to sushi and Korean barbecue, there are Korean soups, teriyaki beef/chicken/salmon, tempura, raw beef, octopus, tofu and yellowtail collar. There's also a savory, fried scallion pancake that comes with tempura dipping sauce. I highly recommend ordering this as an appetizer. An extensive selection of ice cream beckons for dessert: fried ice cream, mochi, and plum, mango, green tea, strawberry or chocolate ice cream. There's also a small selection of beer and wine.
The food isn't cheap, with each plate of meat costing around $17, but you do get a lot of food for the price considering that miso soup, rice, and all the sides are included in the price. The restaurant is quiet and the booths offer privacy. Since the grills are gas, you won't reek of barbecue when you leave, and there is no noisy vent fan to yell over. The restaurant is also very clean.
The restaurant isn't easy to spot from the street or even after you've pulled into the parking lot. It's at the corner of LA and Sequoia, in the back corner of a strip mall with a 7/11, next to the comic book store. The service is excellent--friendly, prompt, and well-informed. It does seem that the age of the server corresponds directly with English-speaking ability, with the grandmotherly woman who might greet you at the door not seeming to speak any English and the young man who served us last time obviously being a native speaker.
Though dining here does make me crave K-Town restaurants like Soot Bull Jeep, whose food is notably better, the less intense food at Oaks is probably more crowd-pleasing for a suburb like Simi Valley (even though Simi does have a surprising number of surprisingly good ethnic restaurants). There's definitely no "scene" here, but that's one of the things I like about it--the atmosphere is very comfortable, yet still probably nice enough for a date. Oaks is one of my favorite restaurants in the area and definitely a place I would return to.
Oaks Korean BBQ
1970 Sequoia Ave #9
Simi Valley, CA 93063
Oaks Korean BBQ Menu