by Alice Levitt
2176 rue St-Catherine, Montréal, QC, 514-932-7565
It's not an exaggeration to say Korean barbecue is my favorite thing in the world. I have been absolutely obsessive about the grill-it-yourself meat meal since I was a small child. My license plate says 'BULGOGI' — the word for my favorite, thinly sliced, marinated beef.
The name of the restaurant refers to the Korean creation myth, in which Dangun Wanggeom asked his heavenly grandfather, Hwanin, to grant him rule over the Asian peninsula. That was roughly 5000 years ago. I would not be surprised if Hwanin had a celestial glimmer in his eye when he pointed me down St-Catherine on Sunday.
For $21 Canadian and change, I was treated to a feast.
The meal began with umami miso soup, then moved along to a salad of baby greens topped with a light and slightly sweet sesame dressing. It reminded me somewhat of a bulgogi marinade, which augured well for what was to come.
Then it was time: Our waitress brought a burner to our wooden picnic table. It was covered in a large, flat griddle, quite different than the domed, helmet-like cooking surface I'm used to. We were presented with a tray of four meats: pork, chicken, beef short ribs and thinly sliced beef, most likely sirloin.
What was advertised as plain old pork was actually tender belly, a common KBBQ feature.
The short ribs, or galbi, were gloriously steeped, per tradition, in a gingery soy-based marinade. Pear is often used as a sweetener and tenderizer in the mix, and I believe that was the case here. Each bone-in slab melted in my mouth, in hot, meaty ecstasy. The meal ended with cool and mild scoops of green tea ice cream, but it was the caramelized fat of the galbi, fresh from the griddle, that truly conjured the fire and brimstone of creation 5000 years ago.