September 28, 2013

Food ReviewL Seoul BBQ Buffet Northbridge, Perth

As I mentioned in a previous review of Arirang, the month of September will see me reviewing a couple more places - one of which is my go to place for Korean cuisine in Perth. This establishment is the biggest love of my life with regards to Korean food, not only due to the quality of the food, but the sentimentality of memories, especially of visiting it with one of my closest friends, who happens to be the person who first brought me here for my first taste of Korean food. 

It has been six years since my first visit, and we have now not only become regular customers, we have also become good friends with the lovely lady who runs the place, and is also the motherboard who runs the entire kitchen. It's impossible to miss her, she is the elderly lady boss running around with a big smile on her face, and making small talk with customers whenever she is freed from her kitchen duties. 

So it is with great pleasure that once said friend revisited Perth this month, we would return and I would take the chance to write up about the lovely food at Seoul BBQ Buffet

For starters, I'd just like to inform everyone that due to the delicious nature of the food and how eager I was to shovel it into my mouth orifice, I do not actually have the prices of each dish - what I can tell you, is that if you are going in a group to dine together, it will not be expensive even if you go with the a la carte menu. 

If you are starving and decide to try to the buffet, it will set you back about $40, a small price to pay for hours of endless amounts of marinated meats, home-made namul (side dishes), seafood and plenty of vegetables (it's not all about the meat) for both soup and grill. You also get ice cream, tea and coffee. There is also a side buffet of cooked food, including noodles, dumplings, the speciality chicken wings et cetra. Not a bad price to pay, especially if you are looking for a long night of dining out with friends over a social dinner.

Another reminder of this post is that the photos were taken by my baby sister, writer and travel blogger over at wennatravels, and as part of her visit has decided to help me take some proper, actual food photos in exchange for her safe return to Singapore.  

As with every Korean meal, we begin with the basic appetisers, with the night's selection being Kongnamul (beansprouts), Kimchi (napa cabbage), Gamja Jorim (potato) and Moo Chae (carrots and radish). 

A highlight of visiting this restaurant is ordering dishes to barbeque yourself, and one of our must haves is Hyo Kwe, which is ox tongue sliced into fine slices - when grilled, it is a beautifully greasy piece of meat, crisp with a slight crunch. 

I know eating ox tongue is confronting to a selected few, but if you can (and you should), garner up some courage and try this dish. You will either become immediately addicted to this, or will never, ever try it again. 

If you thought ox tongue was interesting, the following dish will either make you weep or make you laugh: 

Yukhoe, the Korean version of steak tartare, using the most tender cuts of beef, which is cut into the smallest pieces, mixed with seasonings of sesame oil, sugar, salt and topped with nashi pear slices, pine nuts, sesame seeds, spring onions with a single raw egg yolk. 

When mixed together, it creates a dish that is sweet and fragrant, with no taste of rawness from the beef and is an absolutely delicious, surprisingly mellow combination of ingredients. It is not as confronting as you think to eat raw meat - you have probably had it before in some way or another. If you eat steak tartare, or sashimi in any way - you will love Yukhoe.

We also ordered a plate of the house special, spicy marinated pork, to be grilled with onions and garlic, and then wrapped in lettuce, with garnishes of home-made sauce, more raw garlic and some kimchi to be eaten like the lovely, delicious parcel it is. 

I'm not even kidding about how much you will appreciate the crisp cold of the lettuce, with the spicy tang of the kimchi, bite of the garlic with the delicious sweet, spicy, fatty meat, slightly charred. 

Despite the platters of raw meats being grilled on the pans, we also ordered some side dishes from the a la carte menu, one of them being the Pa Jun or Kim Chi Jun, which is a seafood or kimchi pancake. This savoury pancake also comes with its own dipping sauce, resembling a mix of sesame or soy sauce, crispy with generous portions of spring onions, kim chi, seafood and shredded carrots, radish and onions. 

As I'm not big on the chilli components of most foods, I often order myself a bowl of Dol Suk BiBimBap, served in a hot stone bowl, with the basic vegetables, beef and raw egg. As mentioned, the more you mix, the better the taste. I am a big fan of the Bibimbap from this establishment, and after this dinner even my dad, who does not generally like Korean cuisine, could not stop singing praises about the Bibimbap. 

He then later ate half my bowl, and could not stop talking to my mother about how delicious it was. Whenever my dad shows such a positive reaction to his food, it is a huge plus for the restaurant for me. 

Another dish we get for the non-chilli connoisseurs of my social group, is the Jap Chae, which is stir-fried Korean sweet potato noodles with sesame seeds, sliced mushrooms, spring onions, onions, spinach, carrots, radish with bulgogi beef strips. 

Sweet potato noodles are ridiculously lovely to eat, they are like fatter versions of the humble vermicelli noodle (glass noodles), soaking up the lovely sweet sauce of the stir fry, with plenty of crunch from the large variety of vegetables, supported further by the sweetness of bulgogi strips. 

As I am not a huge chilli fan, I cannot review the following dish, but if you are an expert at spicy food, order up some Kimchi Jigae, which is basically a hell broth stew. My friends, sister and mother are good with spicy dishes, and order this without fail. 

I am not joking about how spicy this bowl is. The lady boss, as I mentioned, is the kitchen chef, and when she prepares this hell broth, it encompasses her very own secret chilli paste. The chilli paste is everything in this hell broth - it is the very centre of this dish, and will make any chilli lover very very pleased. Containing scallions, onions, silky tofu, pork or seafood, using more fermented kimchi to add a heavier punch to the stew, this bubbling concoction is an absolute force to be reckoned with. 

The last dish is not on the menu, and can only be ordered if you know the lady boss or specifically ask for it from someone who works in the restaurant's kitchen. In fact some days, if you want to eat this, you must call ahead to speak to someone and pre order it. 

It is the elusive, the mysterious, the delicious Kimchi Bokkeum Bap (Kimchi fried rice), and true to its name, is a plate of lovely fried rice, with lashings of kimchi, pork, onions and spring onions. Spicy, salty, soft rice, with tangy crunch and stir fried to steaming hot goodness. 

To give you a general idea of how much we love this, we not only order a dish to have when dining in, we also always order two bowls of this stuff to take away from the lady boss, who will obligingly smile and whip up our order with gusto. 

We spent much time in the restaurant this time, as it was a group of nine, all happy and eager to see dish after dish coming out of the kitchen, chatting with the lady boss, who was pleased to see our full bellies and big, greasy smiles from the grilled meats, flushed cheeks and sniffly noses from the spicy stews and her home-made kimchi. 

You won't have particularly good service with plenty of the waitresses in this establishment, as some of them don't speak English (or even Mandarin or Korean) all that well and barely know the menu,  let alone how to eat or cook the served dishes (However I have witness, on occasion, customers trickling in close to closing time and still given a table with no fuss and a smile).You won't have a quiet, upper class dining experience - you will be disturbed by loud drinkers, happy eaters and the constant clatter of cutlery and the loud sizzling of meat on hot griddle. You also won't smell particularly lovely after dinner as every pore of you, from your clothes to your hair will smell like smokey meats and kimchi. 

What you will have, is the undeniably impressive food, which the lady boss takes absolute pride in. 

Having spoken to her plenty of times, (we have visited her at least three times just within this one week), I can assure you the hard work she puts into her food is genuinely ridiculous, and it is simply to make people happy with her food. Her pride in what she cooks and her many secret recipes is palpable, and her customer service is fantastic. 

If you're as lucky as I have been, you will strike up a friendship with the lovely lady boss, (she does have a name, but I affectionately call her Ajumma) and she will take good care of you for years to come. 

Seoul Buffet can be located at three locations: 

253 William Street 
Northbridge 6003
9328 2398 

425 Albany Highway 
Victoria Park 6100 
9470 1133

375 Hay Street 
Subiaco 6008 
9382 2005 

Seoul Buffet Korean BBQ & Steamboat Northbridge on Urbanspoon

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