Bus: STM 15, 24, 57, 66, 165, 166, 427, 435
Visit: November 28, 2013
Imagine a concept where you’d go into a business and cook the food for yourself. Well, there’s a type of Asian cuisine that’s popular for that reason and that’s Korean BBQ. In Montréal, there are more and more of these types of places popping up. One of those places is Seoul Chako.
In our regular adventures in gluttony, Steakman and I have visited a whole bunch of places. This time around, it was his turn to propose something for us to try. When I found out about his recommendation of Seoul Chako, I managed to get some online reaction. The reviews are mixed and even some of the trusted bloggers in the city don’t really think it’s the tops. According to them, it’s a place to try once and then, you cross it off.
On this particular Thursday evening, we entered the establishment and were seated almost immediately. Right away, you can’t help but notice that there is something different about the table. You see, while some of the food is prepared in the back, the majority of it is cooked by yourself. It’s not my first time doing something like this. Even with that, it’s still a unique thing to try.
A lot of the food is appropriately spiced and marinated with Asian elements in the back. Therefore, all you have to do is make sure that you can cook it well enough to your liking. I knew that Steakman was keen on this and he graciously allowed me to watch. If I was forced to cook meat, I would be writing this post from the hospital after either some stomach pumping or poisoning. He seemed to be enjoying himself while doing it and who am I to curtail a person’s fun?
The concept of the menu for the cooking yourself portion is all you can eat. In places like this, you can eat all you want to your heart’s content. There’s also that fine print on the bottom of the menu that states that any wasted food would be added to the bill. On principle, I find that a tad bit ridiculous. I don’t know on whose part that it seems worse on, but it’s something that makes me ask questions. For one, the customer should know better to order more than they can eat. The other side of it is that you can understand where the restaurant is coming from. Food costs money and waste is something that I personally don’t like. Either way, on this evening, no food would be wasted.
Even though you’re the one cooking the food, the service is something that’s still a factor. While we were taken care of pretty well at the beginning, towards the end, it started suffering as the place got crowded and crowded it did get. There were some items that we did order which never made it to the table. It bothered us, but at the point we were at, we were too full to really care much more. We got the important stuff, but some of the fringe items we wanted never entered my mouth.
Before I explain the process, there’s something I can’t help but mention. I’m mentioning this because I’ve never seen this in 4 plus years of visiting restaurants. A few minutes into our visit, the table next to us was occupied by another customer. This person was sitting alone and ordered a great deal of food. They also seemed to know what they were doing. But, it was the request they made to the server that intrigued me. Their phone was handed to the server, as a request for a posed picture was launched. The server was asked to take a picture of the customer with a ready chop stick pose sitting at the table. I know it probably happens, but I’ve never seen that before.
It gets even better. It happened again. This time, the server wasn’t anywhere to be found. So, who does this devoted diner ask to take the next picture? Well, Steakman was up to the task. I could have been asked, but I was busy with my own camera. For anyone who was curious, I wasn’t taking selfies. Steakman quickly took a picture of the posed customer with the chop sticks and that was the end of that. It’s just interesting what you find in places like this.
Seoul Chako’s Korean BBQ ordering process is actually quite simple. Here, you have this ordering form where you should list all the numbers that correspond to the item you’d like to eat or cook. You can order as much as you want and as many times as you want. When you tap out, they bring you the bill and you’re done with it. During our visit, the “buffet” cost us about 23 dollars each. Honestly, you could do a lot worse than that, like the Friday, a week earlier, where I went to a certain shady Chinatown buffet because I was anxious to risk my life on that crumbling bridge that’s always in the news.
We decided to start the meal off with 2 helpings of popcorn chicken. The restaurant actually combined both portions onto one plate. This was actually one of the early hits of the whole line-up. In combination with the provided sauce, this was one that we easily cleared. We actually ordered another batch not too long after the first. We were going to go a third time, but it never made it to the table.
Crab Vinegar Salad
This was the first thing I tried on my own. The crab meat was really nice and the other components all really worked well.
For our strategy, we ordered a few main meats, one being beef. This was the first one to make it to the grill. If cooked properly, this would taste really good. The fact that it is seasoned beforehand makes it interesting, unlike a piece of beef without any at all.
This was, by far, my top selection for the entire meal at Seoul Chako. I’m getting to the point where I’m starting to prefer pork over beef. When you take a bite of this, the pieces just go down really easy.
This was the selection that Steakman was really looking forward to. Chicken can be hit or miss, so you need to make sure that you cook it through. If you like chicken, you’ll probably like this one a whole lot. My heart still remained in the camp of the pork and I don’t think it had anything to do with bacon.
I couldn’t go to an Asian restaurant without going for shrimp, my version of Chinese bacon. They provided you with three pieces, all with their shells still on. If there’s one thing I don’t like doing, it’s removing the shells from shrimp. It’s not easy and no matter how much you think you remove, there is always still some left.
Like I mentioned before, I let Steakman take care of all the cooking duties. With the size of the cuts of meat, the actual cooking time didn’t take very long. I took a look at the grill next to us and it was loaded, so there’s a lot you can do here. We were actually pretty careful to not mix, but after a certain point, you can’t avoid that. Apparently, if you go long enough, they change the grill mid meal.
This was Steakman’s choice of dessert. I got to try a bit of it and I wasn’t disappointed even if mango isn’t my thing. You’ll notice that like the food, the portion size might compel you to order more like Steakman did.
Chocolate Ice Cream
My choice of dessert was chocolate ice cream. I partake in this type of ice cream a lot and this one tasted different. I allowed Steakman to taste and we both had the same conclusion. Even if it tasted odd, it wasn’t half bad.
I wouldn’t call Seoul Chako the ultimate eating experience. I would say that it’s a unique experience that you have to try once. Moreover, the fact that you’re put in the driver’s seat, all the while stuffing your face with as much as you can, must appeal to a whole lot of people. For that, I was rather pleased with my visit.