Sunday, 8 April 2012

Seoul Buffet Korean BBQ & Steamboat

Seoul Buffet Korean BBQ & Steamboat Victoria Park on Urbanspoon
So how much room do you leave in your stomach for buffet?
A bottomless pit would be desirable, but the next best alternative is a very empty stomach.
My brain and appetite switches to wild mode and my poor tummy deals with weight gain as a result. And by the end, I swear I'll treat buffets with caution and never overeat again...


Meat Corner
This is a vegetarian's nightmare and a carnivore's dream, desire and ecstasy all in one. I'm happy to say it is an ongoing dream for as long as you stay at the restaurant as these trays are constantly replenished with endless supplies of meat meat meat!

There is ox tongue, there is pork belly, there is liberally marinated cuts of beef, chicken and pork everywhere, ready at your disposal and all with heavy, liberal use of marinades.

Then there is a splash of random greenery among a sea of reds, pinks and bloody meaty tones. A single tray of lettuce, looking lost and oddly out of place.

Meat & seafood corner
Fish fillets and octopuses adorn the other corner, along with about 5 different sauces to choose from to smother your meat with. Korean BBQ is big on sauce, I am big on sauce. We are a perfect match. Naturally!

Chilli sauce, chilli paste, some sauce resembling satay, a sweet soy-type sauce, and the oh-so-delicious! sesame oil and salt concoction that is more of a perfect match with Korean BBQ than me. Meaning its pretty damn perfect!

Seafood and vegetable corner
I deem this the healthier corner, which showcases more steamboat-ey type ingredients, but it never stops how you decide to cook them cause now you are your own Masterchef.
And also your own judge.

Despite how fancy or the effort these take to keep food hot, they don't even come close to keeping food remotely warm. They do shield food from the various fruit flies I spotted that were hovering around the uncovered buffet meat/vegetable section though. Because who isn't attracted to meat!

Cooked ready-to-eat food
Unveiling the large round shiny covers is an assortment of cooked foods including fried-but-now-soft gyoza, toppoki (excuse me if I'm wrong) - stir fry rice cake in a bitey sauce, spring rolls, beef bulgogi and some marinated chicken dish among other Korean staples.

The buffet section features a small salad section featuring your standard bean sprout salads, seaweed salads, marinated potato salad and the one of course it's there kimchi. All of them are simple but that's exactly why they're good, light accompaniments to an otherwise heavy carnivorous dinner of meat, meat and meat. I even think my beansprout to meat ratio consumed was close to 1:1! I ate my veggies :) There's my good deed for the day!

Then it's down to serious business when the gas burner is turned on and the hotplate is cranked. The hotplates are good cause they don't stick and the meat cooks fast but can burn fast if you're not fast. Everything on the hotplate (and the hotplate itself) first turns a delicious brown and then to a horrid black.

I learn that if you pick up the tongs and prod the meat first, you are pretty much assigned the role of designated cook for the night. I've learnt my lesson.

There's something about cooking your own food at a restaurant that takes away the effort and replaces it with fun. Especially when you're in a not-very-well ventilated room, the aromas and sounds of sizzles and splatters fills your senses because they have nowhere to go. As such, they cling to your hair, your clothes, your nose...but really, isn't the scent of food just so attractive?! :P

I reckon a big plate of this would easily replace a big bowl of ice cream as this will make me feel better food. It's sweet and juicy and can melt in your mouth, everything that ice cream is capable of plus even more - IT SMELLS SO DARN GOOD. I couldn't ever get sick of this.

You are in control of everything here, cook everything just the way you like it. My kind of happiness is the kind that sizzles on a hotplate.

On the same table format is an inbuilt platform for a shallow steamboat dish, which you fill with your choice out of beef or chicken stock. My first time here involved some confusion, as you are given a metal jug of liquid when you are seated, and which I thought was stock - the very very very plain tasting type. Turns out it was indeed very very very plain tasting - water. Doh!

Fish cake, fish balls, noodles, veges, whatever you want to boil instead of throw on the barbeque but really, I reckon everything that goes in here tastes better barbequed anyway. Healthier this way, but really, you might as well give up even thinking of being healthy at Korean BBQ.

Meat reload
You'll find yourself getting a lottttttttttt of refills. I could probably drown in the amount of ox tongue I eat. The meats are sliced thinly (esp. ox tongue) and shrink a lot during their cooking process (definitely ox tongue) so you can tell yourself you're actually not eating THAT much (OX TONGUE!!!!!) :)
Some positive reinforcements does wonders for your guilt, but not so much on the waist.

Not much of a dessert selection, but that's understandable at a Korean BBQ buffet where marinated meats are your entree, main AND dessert. If you have room for dessert, you have room for more meat and haven't eaten enough of it.

Having said that though, they have tubs of strawberry, vanilla and chocolate ice cream. These always run low but they have a very thoughtful sign saying new refills are certainly available. Even when I'm not a fan of conventional ice cream flavours, there's something about these that makes me eat about 5 scoops in one sitting.

There is also a big glass punch bowl of coconut milk with sago and watermelon dessert as well as a very convenient DIY coffee machine that spits out all your coffee and tea preferences. You can make everything yourself - really really handy for satisfying your Affogato cravings!


If you judge a restaurant by how busy it looks, Seoul ticks all the boxes. It is ALWAYS rowdy, always bustling towards full capacity, staff are always kept busy, always full of smoke and fumes (a good sign in this circumstance!) and even with efficient staff trying to keep this to a minimal by constantly changing burning hotplates with smoke coming out of them, the rate at which us diners burn (or cook) meats is definitely faster.

Staff should be commended though, on how they scoot around and are extremely vigilant about blackening hotplates. Upon sitting down you are asked if you know how this whole Korean BBQ thing works, and to which I lied and said no once, how they run you through and introduce you to all the details is very impressive. We're always the last table standing sitting whenever we dine out, to which they had no problems with and just proceeded to clean around us instead of hinting at us to leave.

The layout of the tables and chairs is quite compact, and maneuvering through the chair and people maze is quite dangerous if you're balancing plates of meat mountains on your hands. The tables themselves are also quite low on space, needing to accommodate plates, bowls, chopsticks, cutlery, water jugs, cups, tongs, scissors, sauces, excess plates, yada yada yada. Everything is a bit squishy and cramped, first needing to navigate through people and furniture then needing to navigate through your own table.

But of course, it's quite fun to have your own cooking station. Meat not done enough? Chuck it back on the hotplate! Hot food gone cold? Chuck it back on the hotplate! Feel like chucking something on the hotplate? Chuck it on the hotplate! This is (my) ultimate freedom to be an (incompetent) Masterchef.

It's a buffet, you will most likely over eat, but with all that rich and tasty marinade caramelising on the hotplate, it's silly to expect any sense of self discipline.

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