Tonight this was our destination for some cook-it-yourself Korean BBQ. The restaurant was pretty regular inside and out. Designed for function there was not much to describe in terms of aesthetics. Even the Christmas lights with its pine trim was kept up all year long for practicality. You turn it on to celebrate, otherwise it stays off the rest of the year.
Seating was either on a spacious cushioned booth or within an individual room, like a cubicle with four walls and a sliding door. The latter, a perfect solution for any large and especially rowdy party. But only a few seats came equipped with a table top stove, a prerequisite for the barbecue process. After all, they have plenty of other Korean cuisine classics if you weren’t keen on cooking your own meal, or wearing the scent of barbecue on you all day.
The menu showcased the various barbecue combinations first. The success of each was dependant on the number in your party or the cuts of meat you desired. In general such places only offer finer cuts of meat, so you end up paying for what you get. We chose the smallest of such combinations suggested for 2-3 diners. “BBQ combination A” which included prime beef ribs, sliced beef, chicken, and spicy pork marinated in their house special bbq sauce.
Along with all the red meat came various cooked vegetarian sides, a common sight at most Korean restaurants and a perk for dining at them. A simple broth and a green salad with shredded lettuce. We also each got a bowl of rice, served in a metal container with a lid. It helped to balance out all the protein, and give the base for the food you craved.
Julienne pickled daikon and bean sprouts with shredded carrot and cucumber.
Boiled potato in a sweet sauce and pickled assorted vegetable including cucumber and radish.
Spicy kimchi with pickled cabbage and steamed broccoli with a brown tangy sauce.
The cooking is done with the electric heat source, built right into the table, a covered hole with the dials to control the temperature located on the side of the table. After ordering their barbecue selection the server sets things up for you. The lid is replaced with a metal coil. A protective ring is placed around it, to prevent you from sticking your hand too close and burning yourself.
The meat arrives sorted into lumps on the same large plate. The prime beef rib was served on the bone, with sharpened scissors our server cuts things down to size. Rectangular cuts she then places directly on to the coil, after first greasing it with the tiny cube of butter provided. The meat starts to sizzle, it cooks quick, a few flips and you are ready to eat. It smells delicious. Using the tongs provided you serve each other from grill to plate. The above process is repeated yourself for the rest of the remaining meat. If you weren’t sure how to do it all before, the demo from the server helps. Half the dining experience is grilling yourself and conversing with your guest as you do. Though it does get troublesome as you can’t fully immerse yourself in enjoying the actual dining part of dinner. You are force to watch the rack in case things burn. Dropping chopsticks for tongs, having the food before you cool down, all in order to have meat continuously coming off the grill in a timely manner. Taking turns on cooking helps. But better yet, come with someone who actually enjoys the activity portion of Korean BBQ, someone who doesn’t mind serving you.
The short ribs were my favourite. I usually save the best for last, and this was definitely the best cut out of the four as part of the “BBQ Combo A”. But seeing as the server placed it on the grill for us, there was no going back now. Each piece was juicy with just the right amount of tenderizing fat.
Chicken with button mushrooms.
Spicy marinated pork.
My guest was keen on this Korean delicacy. “Yukhwae”, shredded raw beef marinated in seasoned sesame oil. Given that it was essentially just raw beef I was paying for, I was glad that there was some thought put into its presentation, though they do shortly mix it all together at your table. And when they do it all looks a little less appetizing. We paid $22.95 for raw ground beef, raw garlic, raw turnip, and raw egg. If you think about it, you can get lean ground beef from superstore for $3.89, though I am sure it is no where near as fresh as the serving we were having now. I did think it a little weird, but as an indiscriminate food blogger I go with the flow and am willing to try almost anything. (For the record I can’t do snails, sea cucumber, and wilted or soggy leafy green vegetables.) The shredded turnip provided some texture, a crunch; and the Yuzu leaves gave it some spice, more than just a sesame flavouring. We imagined it sweet, but it wasn’t. It tasted like how you would expect it to. It is like how you imagine eating raw beef would be, texturally. I personally didn’t like it as I am a textural eater and I need crunch in my savoury. This was all mash. We did not finish it. Seeing as there was already an egg in the mix, my guest took the leftovers home to make hamburgers with.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – No.
Would I recommend it? – No.
Would I suggest this for someone visiting from out of town? – No.
The activity was enjoyable and the seasonings on everything was good. If we didn’t like anything, we only had ourselves to blame, as we were the ones to do the actual cooking. The restaurant itself was not a stand out for me. Aside from the rooms it was all pretty standard and all available at many other like Korean restaurants, featuring the possibility for barbecue. Don’t deny your cravings.