Space is at a premium in Seattle. With rents skyrocketing around the city, it’s no wonder that many new restaurants prefer to start small, whether it’s the Chophouse Row sushi counter By Tae or Hillman City’s tiny fine-dining Filipino destination Archipelago. But Capitol Hill’s beefy new Korean barbecue spot — called, appropriately enough, Meet Korean BBQ — isn’t afraid to stretch out a bit. The new restaurant from acclaimed chef Heong Soon Park (owner of Pike Place’s Bacco Cafe and Chan) officially opens next Tuesday, with an expansive dining room that seats around 95, along with an elegant, sit-down bar situated in the middle of the action.
For those who remember the space as Trove (chefs Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi’s four-in-one Korean restaurant), the transition to sizzling tabletop grills shouldn’t be too jarring, since barbecue was one aspect of the versatile restaurant, which closed last summer. But Park has brought a little bit more cohesion throughout and hopes to set his effort apart from other Korean barbecue spots with cuts of high-end meat, such as American wagyu zabuton and kurobuta pork, cooked by chefs at each table (although diners who want to go the DIY route can do so). Those are served with a selection of banchan, along with gooey corn cheese and lettuce to build ssam. “I wanted to deliver a true Korean barbecue cultural experience with a modern twist,” says Park.
The hugely popular chicken wings from Chan make an appearance on the menu, alongside other small dishes, such as wagyu soy bean stew and bulgogi pork bites. Park says he also has ambitions to showcase different types of Korean-style fermentation techniques, from young chilis and ramps to oysters, blue crab, and other types of seafood. In the past, he says introducing the ingredients and flavors he loved from Korea had been a challenge at a place like Bacco, which became more of an American brunch destination. But, like the space itself, Meet Korean should allow him to spread his wings.
On the drinks side, bar manager Tyler Moore will mix up Korean-influence cocktails, including a sour with bourbon and bokbunja (a black raspberry-flavored liqueur) and a bloody mary made with gochujang. Meanwhile, the wine and beer list aims to complement the meaty menu, with a selection of robust reds from the Pacific Northwest and some Korean brews, as well as local ones.
Though Korean barbecue is more prevalent in areas north (Lynnwood) and further south (Federal Way, Kent, and Tacoma), this spot looks to stake a claim on a bustling Capitol Hill stretch that has lots of dining options, but few of this particular variety. It also marks the continuation of a trend, with new restaurants bringing Korean cuisine to more and more neighborhoods in Seattle proper. Whether it’s the modern twists of Paju in Queen Anne, the brunch dishes at Watson’s Counter in Ballard, or fellow barbecue purveyor Son of a Butcher in Eastlake, not to mention the new permanent outpost of the food truck Seoul Bowl on Capitol Hill, the scene is now getting both sizable and substantial.