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Melbourne VIC 3000
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Summer, to me, means not just cricket, hot bodies and crappy free-to-air programming, it also means BBQ season. And by BBQ season, I don’t just mean the Aussie tradition of cooking Coles-brand sausages and steaks on the barbie while sipping ice, cold cans of beer and slapping bratty four year old boys. I also mean BBQ in the Korean sense – a table with several of your mates (in my case, it was Yoko and John Cathy and Aaron), one of the oldest Korean restaurants in the CBD and lots and lots of meat.
The original plan was to go to Kitchen Workshop for their buffet dinners but after much whinging about how much of a walk Crown was from where we were, we decided to go to Seoul House for their $28 p/h All You Can Eat Korean BBQ meal. Seoul House was actually the first Korean restaurant I’d ever been to (oh, take me back to 1999 where white jeans were cool and so was “white house”) but being the food philistine that I was back then, I had not developed an appreciation of food beyond McChicken nuggets, Lygon Street Italian fare and Sushi Sushi smoked salmon hand rolls. Subsequently after my meal at Seoul House, I dismissed Korean food merely as ‘meat that was too sweet and gross.’ These days, however, I am obviously more discerning – and hell, I’ve even learnt to like Korean food – so I was looking forward to this meal.
How did this All You Can Eat thing work? Basically, they plonk a bunch of ubiquitous Korean side dishes in front of you (bean shoots, spicy cucumber, kim chi, cold noodles etc) and of course, they refill whatever you want more of. Some places usually offer a second refill for free before they start charging you for subsequent refills while others are happy to keep churning out those small bowls of kim chi etc for free – Seoul House happen to be in the latter group. I was impressed with the service at Seoul House on the night we went – the waiters who served us were never without a smile on their face (even after Aaron requested, like, the 5 billionth serving of beef bulgogi) and our water glasses were always refilled promptly.
We also got spring rolls and fried Korean dumplings (mandu). The spring rolls tasted like the frozen variety while the dumplings were not the best I’ve ever had. We didn’t bother with refills.
We had meat. Lots of it! From bulgogi beef to BBQ spare ribs to spicy pork BBQ (which tasted strangely identical to the spicy chicken BBQ – not even kidding, couldn’t even distinguish between the two meats!). It wasn’t the best quality meat I’ve had (it was obvious that they used the cheapest quality they could get) but hey, a good marinade can make even the poorest quality meat taste halfway decent. Plus, you’re here for quantity over quality and that’s what we got – countless top-ups of meat, particularly the bulgogi and the spicy chicken which would have upped Aaron’s and my protein count to gazillion grams for the day (not so much Cathy’s though – she’s sensible).
We were also given squid, octopus and mushrooms to barbecue. It was Aaron’s first time eating octopus and although he was initially reluctant (he was never a big seafood fan, you see), Cathy forced him to take a nibble. He hated it. Oh well.
A hot pot of soy bean soup also came with the banquet, but it mostly remained untouched. Not that there was anything wrong with it (well, it wasn’t OMG fantastic either) – it was just that we would rather eat the meats, hah!
Given that Aaron and I probably ate our weight in meat, I can honestly say that it’s worth giving the All You Can Eat banquet at Seoul House a go. If you have a little stomach like Cathy, I think you’re better off ordering a main meal such as a bowl of bibimbap (though I can’t vouch for the bibimbap here) but if you’re a carnivore with a ferocious appetite, this is the place for you. It may not serve the best Korean BBQ in terms of quality (Hwaro does it best, in my opinion) but you certainly get what you pay for (i.e. meat that’s sweet, but not overly so, and not at all gross) and a lot more.