I’m going to be a regular at Seoul Chako. I just know it. Dark and spacious, this all-you-can-eat, do-it-yourself Korean BBQ joint is one of the latest additions to the downtown district. With a fire grill built in the table and a spread of colorful raw items covering every inch of space, it’s a good change of pace from whatever’s available in the area.
The lineup gathers appetizers, cold dishes, random sushi, meat, seafood, vegetables and desserts. $23.99 weekend dinners unlock everything on the menu, weeknight dinners go for $21.99 and cover most of the menu, but you can get a limited yet respectable lunch on weekdays for $13.99 and weekends for $14.99. Each individual serving contains 2-4 pieces but things quickly add up. If you don’t pace yourself, there’s a $1 charge for every leftover piece.
Let’s say the appetizers and cold dishes make up the Banchan. Pick and choose from both categories to create your own set of small side dishes to eat with the meal. I like the (wakame) seaweed salad (dinner only) a lot. It’s firm jelly-like strings boast the right balance of sweet and sour. The tongue-tickling kimchi is a tad too salty but I don’t know how to eat a Korean meal without it. Good or bad, it has to be on the table. And, I’ll be getting cold tofu, bean sprout salad, pickled radish and white rice at my future visits. I really don’t care for the rest.
All meat is infused with the same sugar-soy-chili marinade and if you don’t overcook, they turn out tasty and delightfully juicy. There’s a decent selection to choose from and you can keep your favorites coming. There’s no shame in abusing the system, like me, you might even get to the point where everything starts to taste the same. Still, no complaints here. My must-haves include pork, lamb (weekends only) and beef short ribs. They’re good, the last one especially.
Don’t throw everything in at once, be patient and lay each piece in a single layer. Watch them brown and char. Listen to them sizzle. The intoxicating meaty, smoky aroma will have you drooling instantly. The beef short ribs are cut thick and they take the longest to cook, but everything else is thinly sliced and ready in no time. Remember to use two separate tongs to handle raw and cooked meat. No one likes food poisoning.
I love seafood but it’s not the main attraction. There’s not much of it on the menu and most of it is unseasoned and very plain. If you don’t mind peeling and beheading, load up on shrimp (dinner only) because they taste good even at their bare minimum. Salmon is okay too. Switch it up with vegetables if you need a break from meat. Zucchini, onions, green peppers and mushrooms top my list. I like sweet potato and pumpkin too but they take forever to cook.
Seoul Chako just opened and there’s already so much they can do to be better. Dipping sauces, they need legit dipping sauces. Everything except for the meat isn’t marinated, and some extra oomph would seriously do them good. There’s a bottle of soy sauce and really runny BBQ sauce on the table, but what am I supposed to do with that? They need a good ventilation system because the smell of raw meat and fish, and smoke linger in the air. An effective way to take people’s order, like a check off list, would be a major turn on. It’s a lot easier to mark down what you want instead of passing the word along to someone who’ll forget to bring you what you ordered. On that note, service is whack and maybe a deal breaker for some. Sure they smile, but they’re not around when you need them. Keep circulating guys, please.
Yes, Seoul Chako is flawed but I can deal. And I’d be happy to too. I just have to be in the right mood. I wouldn’t step foot in here if I was dead hungry or in a rush. You have to cook a little while you eat a little. Three hours in and I’d still be hungry, know what I mean? It’s not the place for authentic Korean meals either; they serve sushi for crying out loud. But, the food is fresh and the all-you-can-eat, do-it-yourself Korean BBQ they’ve got going on is a much-loved concept I welcome with open arms…and a large appetite.
1824 rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest | map