This restaurant has closed. The second drunkest night of my life began during my first Korean BBQ dinner in Seoul. You see, like you, I had no idea what a true Korean BBQ (from henceforth known as K-BBQ) experience was like. My coworkers and I arrived at a large, opulent-but-minimalist restaurant and were taken upstairs to our private room, where 8 Korean salarymen were waiting for us.
Over the next few hours, soju ran through the room like a river. Bottles were emptied, and new bottles were delivered without anyone asking. Meat was constantly being cooked. Everything became a blur of meat sweats and soju. The next thing I know, I'm in a minivan (whose?) being driven back to the hotel with the whole crew to continue drinking and eating until who knows when.
I woke up the next morning stinking of booze, bacon, and kimchi, the contents of my suitcase were spread across the floor (a graceful attempt to find something?), and my contacts were glued to my eyeballs. An hour later, one of the same salarymen from the night before picked us up and exuberantly exclaimed, "that's how you do Korean BBQ!"
To truly experience K-BBQ as it's meant to be, you must get fucked up. Shitfaced. Hammered. That means you're either drinking soju or makgeolli (the former is almost like vodka, the latter exists only to give you awful hangovers the next day), plus beer to wash it down.
No one knows this better than my friend David Choi, owner of Seoul Q and Seoul Taco. Fearing I wouldn't be able to handle all the drinking and eating with just the two of us, I invited chef Russ Bodner to come along too.
There's no pussyfooting around the fact you need to come to Seoul Q prepared for a battle. You're going to eat—a lot.
Every BBQ order comes with 7 sides, including beef croquettes, kimchi, egg soufflé, and sweet black beans. If you've planned things correctly, around this time you'll have your beer and soju arriving at the table.
Pre-meatfest came a pizza-sized kimchi pancake with crispy pork belly set into the top. It's kind of like a potato latke that's traveled to Korea and learned about the wonderful world of kimchi and pork. The top bits get nice and crispy while the inside stays soft and pancakey. The flavor is more subtle than you might think, considering the ingredients.
Our first meat of the night arrived and it was all down hill from there (in a good way). David knew that once pork belly starts sizzling in front of us, our hunger levels would skyrocket. He played me like a fiddle. While the meat cooked, more shots were had, more snacks were snacked.
High quality belly, grilled over high heat, dipped into whatever sauces were in front of me—you don't need me to tell you it was good.
As we finished up the belly, they brought out the Seoul Ssam Wrap—a plate of braised and caramelized pork shoulder and belly, accompanied by plenty of cabbage to wrap it in. David Chang and Momofuku brought bo ssam and ssam sauce to light here in the US; this is your chance to see what the hype is all about.
The ssam wraps were my favorite part of dinner, I think. I'm a sucker for braised meat.
By this point, things were getting fuzzy and my photography skills (and patience) were wearing thin, but I pressed on like a champ. More shots, more beer, more meat. The marinated short ribs arrived and, god, just look at them. Great marbling, great color. David let them sit on the grill long enough to get a great caramelization. That sweet, charred exterior is what I think about late at night. Of the meat we actually grilled for ourselves, this was my favorite.
Disgustingly, we continued onwards, finishing the meaty portion of the meal with slices of pork jowl. I have no recollection of eating it. I was basically exploding by this point.
I'm not sure if it's something they normally sell or if David just thought Russ and I looked like we needed a cupcake, but he brought out these great green tea cupcakes, topped with a matcha Kit Kat. Even with everything we'd already eaten, we finished it without issue.
My only criticism of the meal is that there isn't an option for late night drunken karaoke. You may think karaoke is stupid, but Asia loves it for a reason: when you're shitfaced, it's pretty much the best thing ever. And Seoul Q does have a back waiting area/lounge with a big TV in it...
If you're going to go, do it right: get a few friends together and settle in for a couple hours of eating and drinking to excess. If you're looking to save a little money, go after 9 PM and you can have all you can eat meat for $26.99, plus half off cocktails. It's probably the best deal in town, especially if you're an obese alcoholic. [symple_box color="white" fade_in="false" class="list" float="center" text_align="center" width=""]