Many things will happen in an almost two-hour wait for a dinner at Gen Korean BBQ. The late autumn breeze will waft the teasing scent of marinated grilled meats through the front doors. People will open these doors frequently to check the status of the wait. They will be told not for another another hour, at least. Calculations will be made. Is any food worth a two-hour wait?

Already an established chain in Southern California, Gen Korean BBQ recently opened its first branch in San Jose and the crowd here must be a result of its SoCal reputation. Gen is undoubtedly a hip place with blue neon lighting accents and elegant cushioned booths—modern and vibrant like any good Vegas night club.

Gen serves all you can eat (AYCE) for lunch ($15.99) and dinner ($24.99 starting at 3PM). Small plates of banchan (side dishes) from kimchi and pickles to a scoop of mashed potatoes line the perimeter of a circular grill in the middle of the table. Tall vents hang above the tables to vacuum the fumes, but the aroma of barbeque will cling to clothes.

After the long wait, staff certainly does its best to speed up the rest of the dining experience. Each table can order four dishes of meat per round. Once the round is served, the waiter will take another order of four dishes. Upon seating, our first order for five dishes was taken and the waiter also sent out a plate of popcorn chicken to start. It was not long before one plate of meat, then another, hit the table. This goes on until the diners decide to stop ordering. It is a controlled pace in buffet dining, which fits the ambiance more than having trays of food in chafing dishes under sneeze guards.

Enticing meats on the menu seem to all be described as a premium or a GEN signature cut. There are parts of cattle and pigs that the average diner may have never seen before, like rib finger meat, beef hanging tender and pork jowl. They are marinated in a variety of sauces or can be ordered plain. The menu could be better organized by protein type rather than in no specific order. Certain cuts come in a decent portion per order, while shrimp and steak have just a few per plate. A salad dressed in vinaigrette and three dipping sauces comes with the meal, and rice can be ordered with the waiters. Everything is worth a try—it is buffet after all—but only two things really stood out, beef rib finger meat and bulgogi. Plates of beef rib finger meat alone could make the meal worth $25.

Standing in line for nearly two hours, to eat for slightly more than one hour, makes for a lengthy dining experience, not including transit time. The marinades were good, the selection of cuts was considerable, and once seated, the service was speedy. The prices for both lunch and dinner are standard for Korean buffet prices, if not slightly cheaper.

There are not nearly as many side dishes as there are at other buffets, and the ones offered are basic: a pre-made version of similar tastes can be found in stores. Any number of family-owned Korean buffets on El Camino can provide a quicker and sometimes better tasting protein fix.

It’s too soon to write off Gen Korean BBQ, though. In a few months and the crowds should become more manageable. It’s not like they’re serving the latest iPhone.

Gen Korean BBQ
1628 Hostetter Rd. Suite F, San Jose.
Korean, $$