While there are times where I just don’t want to cook at home, there is a compromise I will gladly take on – grilling at a Korean BBQ restaurant!
Entering Cho Sun, I noticed it wasn’t super cozy warm (in fact there were a few space heaters near the entrance!) but as we got seated some hot barley tea helped warm us up. The barley tea has a more cerealy, light flavour than other teas you get – and none of the astringent or bitter tones from black tea. It’s pretty good cold too (something we enjoyed a lot when we went to Japan several years ago)!
The menu is pretty expansive – from lunch special posted on the walls, to cooked dishes, BBQ items, hot pots, and sushi/sashimi. We stuck with a few BBQ items and added an appetizer too.
As is the tradition in Korean restaurants, a series of small plates was presented to us after we put in our order; these are called Banchan, and are a nice showcase of what the restaurant can do (and yes, these are free and you can ask for more – don’t be shy!). These dishes are usually cold and vegetable-based. You’ll likely get something pickled, something sweet, and definitely some kimichi. In the assortment provided here, my favourites were the green salad which had a dressing that was not overly sweet or watery (which is, sadly, often the case elsewhere), and the pickled daikon which were nice and crisp. Chris enjoyed the garlicky seaweed salad and the sweet potatoes (though I found these a bit undercooked and tough).
We also got a few extra small dishes that came with our main: some beef consome soup, which was really excellent with a very strong beef flavour; and some rice (served in the traditional lidded silver container).
Our appetizer were Pan-Fried Dumplings, which were very crispy on the outside and very meaty on the inside. They were great, the dipping sauce was mostly black vinegar, but that worked well to cut through the deep-fried aspects.
For our main course, we ordered a pair of items for grilling. First up – Spicy Pork, which was a really great deal for the price. Very well marinated, this thin-cut meat cooked up very quickly on the grill in the centre of the table. I liked that it wasn’t fatty, but, still had enough marbelling to be very juicy.
Our other main was beef short ribs (or Gal bi). I didn’t think these were quite as good value, though I understand this is a premium cut of meat (especially in Korean cooking), but 3 of the side-cut slabs (2 shown in the picture above) was not as good value as the pork. The beef wasn’t as well marinated either. Still, they were super tasty, and picked up a great char from the grill.
We chose to add on the lettuce service, which was not free – in fact, unlike other restaurants, the refill of lettuce was also charged ($1.50 for our “half refill”). I still enjoyed having the lettuce to wrap up the beef, and I also enjoy grilling the garlic and using the fermented bean paste with the wraps.
After all this grilling, I should show you a picture of the inside of the restaurant – you can imagine it gets a little smokey in there! There are big vents (or, as Chris calls them; “Fume hoods”) over each table, but despite this, you’ll still leave smelling like delicious Korean BBQ.
Service was very attentive and friendly – we did get quite a few expensive items, so, perhaps next time we’ll share a hot pot, or just pick one meat and get some Japchae noodles or Be Bim Bop rice to split too to keep the price down. I’d definitely like to see what a lunch is like as they were advertising very good priced combos on posters everywhere. We’ll be back!