Seattle's Korean Cuisine Gets an Update

Chef Heong Soon Park is all about current dining trends…the ones happening in Korea.

By Allecia Vermillion February 25, 2020 Published in the March 2020 issue of Seattle Met

In Korea, servers run the tabletop grills, so that's what happens at Meet Korean BBQ, too.

When Heong Soon Park opened his casual Korean restaurant in Pike Place Market eight years ago, he aimed his plates at diners unfamiliar with bibimbap or ssam. Today, the menu at Chan still refers to its galbi plate simply as “braised short rib” and serves its bulgogi in the form of sliders, but a series of tweaks brought the menu much closer, says Park, to “the way we approach food in Korea now.”

In other words, these dishes skew less delicate, more like sturdy drinking food, and the kitchen no longer holds back on the bold flavors, or the gochujang. “Selling Korean food is great,” says the chef, “but providing or selling the culture is more important, you know?”

Now, Park wants to give Korean barbecue a similar update in Seattle. He’s opening Meet Korean BBQ on Capitol Hill, taking over the former Trove space, with its ducting system custom built to handle a roomful of tabletop grills.

On a recent trip to Korea, Park was shocked to see restaurants dishing out only one or two banchan, rather than the traditional cluster of five or more diminutive side dishes. “It’s shifting; we’re focusing on the main dishes.” His punnily named Meet will follow this same pattern and embrace another recent development in Korea’s energetic food culture: Servers will grill each cut of high-end wagyu beef or kurobuta pork for the table, rather than leaving diners to their own devices. Otherwise, says Park, if you go out with a group of friends, “someone has to be sacrificing, cooking the meat all night long.”

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