seoul korean – northbridge
by Mei Leong
Is there anything better on a stark, cold night than a hot, sizzling korean barbeque? The change of the season is officially here and outside, the gutters are waterfalls, but inside, it’s cozy, warm and meaty. Yes, meaty. This is an all you can eat barbeque buffet, baby! And there’s not much koreans like more than their beef. Bulgogi beef, spicy beef, beef slices and ox tongue all make an appearance on the sizzling barbeque. While the men happily occupy themselves over the barbeque, us ladies sit back and enjoy the service.
Korean bbq is perfect for a dinner with friends. Personally I think korean bbq is perfect all the time. We are at Seoul Korean BBQ in Northbridge and it is very similar to its Victoria Park counterpart. Except for the vents – each table here has its own individual vent – leaving us smelling less like bbq and we are definitely happier for it. We visited the restaurant during midweek and I was secretly grateful they had set their full buffet out.
The buffet is flanked by hot food and covers the korean favourites – fried dumplings, potato pancakes and little chicken wings. Good for snacking on while waiting for the barbeque to heat up. Unlike other buffets, korean barbeque buffets are set with raw food. You take whatever takes your fancy and bring it back to the table to cook. The a la carte dishes are basically a subset of the buffet but you have the option of the chef cooking it for you in the kitchen – making you smell less like the grill. But cooking it yourself is always more fun!
One aspect that I never fail to notice is the absolute hygiene on the buffet stand. It is spotless, cold and always being refilled. The meat is always cold, the seafood is pristine and the vegetables are crisp and at their peak. The buffet is split into two sections – half for barbeque ingredients (mainly marinated meats and condiments) and the other is for steamboat (chinese hot pot). This section is filled with food more suitable for steamboat, like fish fillets, prawns and fishballs. You can taken whatever ingredients from the buffet and do what you like with them. I like to to barbeque the prawns, shell and all. (When I think about it, this maybe the only place is Perth where you can legitimately have all-you-can-eat barbequed prawns… these prawns are no shrimps, they are of decent size). There’s also steamed rice which is scooped into little metal bowls – usually skipped by the carnivorous meat die hards.
Each table sits four so we have both the steamboat and the bbq going at the same time. The waiter fills the steamboat with chicken soup, while we choose from the buffet. Apart from tasty chive dumplings, I’m not partial to steamboat. But I do love the bbq.
The bulgogi beef is absolutely delicious. I can never make it this good at home. Slightly charred, juicy and slightly sweet, the beef is at its zenith straight off the grill. K really likes the lamb shoulder chops and tries to get all the meat of the bones. I really can’t be bothered. Go straight for the tongue I say! Ox tongue, that is. Unaware customers would probably think the densely marbled, pink circle pieces of meat on the buffet is some premium cut of beef. No, it is tongue. And it is delicious. Trust me. Just don’t overcook it. Tongue is really good on the bbq – perfectly cooked, it’s still juicy and amazingly tender. It shrinks a lot as the fat melts out of it and bastes the surface. I eat a lot of tongue at korean bbq. Don’t I sound kinky.
Traditionally, we are supposed to wrap the bbq meat, rice and condiments in a lettuce leaf. But you know what, just eat it however you like. The condiments really enhance the meal – of which I love the one that looks like salt sitting in oil. The whole korean bbq experience is not complete without the side dishes – which are also all-you-can-eat here. So if you love your korean tit bits you can go crazy here. K likes to empty out the bean sprout banchan (sukju namul) from the buffet. Shameful. Of course there’s kimchi, which everyone should try once!
The hot food is not bad. Since the bbq and steamboat is so popular the hot food gets neglected and turnover is low. The pancake was pretty good, however the dumplings were a tad rubbery from age. So check out the hot food carefully. There’s a $25/kg penalty on excess wastage and you don’t want to be arguing over that at the end of the meal. However, I’ve never seen the staff enforce the penalty at either restaurant. I guess it is a deterrent for wasting perfectly good food.
Seoul Korean doesn’t suffer from the ‘everything tastes the same’ syndrome I’ve heard other korean bbqs suffer from (Hana BBQ from word of mouth). There’s a huge selection and I think even vegetarians will be satisfied with the steamboat. One thing I’d like to note which has nothing whatsoever to do with the food – are the toilets. The toilets are shared with the backpackers next door (strange right?) and if you ever find the ladies toilets (which are apparently on the 1st floor) please let me know. I got lost wandering the backpacker dorms in search of a washbasin. Eventually I got directed to the gentlemen’s, which looked extremely dodgy (exposed brick walls and a very yellow urinal…).
Anyway, do give Korean BBQ a go – it’s absolutely perfect for a communal dinner and first forays into Korean food. There’s even ice cream for dessert and a machine which spurts out half decent coffee. It beats cleaning up bird poo off the barbeque at the park and you don’t have to lug an esky or watch the weather. How civilised.
Up’s: The food – it’s not too spicy and there’s something for everyone. Excellent buffet choices. Good service. Book the traditional tables (elevated floor seating – no chairs) if you want the real deal.
Down’s: The toilets – where are the ladies toilets?
Service: 3.5/5 (you are serving yourself…)
Atmosphere: 3/5 (docking points for the wacky toilet)
Seoul Korean, 253a William St, Northbridge WA 6003
T: (08) 9328 2398
Mon – Sat 6pm – 11
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