Updated on January 28 to include Meet Korean BBQ's newly announced opening date.
When Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi closed Trove, their complex on Capitol Hill, they shuttered a sprawling space with a venting system custom built for the sizzling, smoky business of Korean barbecue. Now, a new occupant will fire up those tabletop grills once more.
Heong Soon Park, of Chan and Bacco Cafe in Pike Place Market, will open Meet Korean BBQ here at 500 E Pike. As the name punnily implies, this spot will focus on quality protein, namely beef and pork. “Nothing but angus prime or American wagyu and Kurobuta pork,” says Park. “We're not doing anything else.”
Some starters and fermented sides—kimchi and somen noodles, a soy bean stew—balance orders of kalbi marinated wagyu beef belly or kurobuta pork jowl. Park’s installing a wood-fire grill in the space up front previously home to Trove’s noodle bar, for those meats that benefit from some par cooking over smoke before they arrive at the tabletop grills.
Oh, about those grills. Park says Meet’s staff will grill the meat on tabletops, rather than leave that task to diners. Order the beef combo, for instance, and a server will cook each of the four cuts as its own course, to the specs of its particular texture and fat content, and offer up an optimal sauce pairing. That way, says Park, diners unfamiliar with Korean barbecue can benefit from a little guidance. Those deeply familiar with its protocols don’t have to split their focus from drinking and relaxing.
But isn’t the DIY nature sort of the point of Korean barbecue?
“It’s different now,” says Park, who spent time in Korea specifically to research this project. He estimates 80 percent of restaurants there cook the meat for you. “In Korea, the youngest of the group tends to cook the meat, and they don’t get to enjoy the conversation.”As he proved with his erstwhile Tray Kitchen project in Frelard, Park's a guy unafraid of embracing new concepts.
Park says he'd long ago pondered taking Korean barbecue to the Hill, but when Rachel Yang and Seif Chirchi announced plans for Trove, he didn't want to compete with a friend. When the couple announced this summer they were closing the space, he asked about taking it over. The handoff becomes all the more real on February 11, when Meet plans to open.