Daorae Korean BBQ Restaurant
Time Out says
Korean isn’t quite spur-of-the-moment food; diving into all that garlic and chilli requires a bit of advance planning. And whomever you plan to spend the rest of the post-meal day with had better partake with you, because you know what they say about garlic breath (it’s best shared). But issues such as these needn’t be considered if you’re pondering a visit to Daorae. Let’s call it the perfect restaurant for those who want to eat Korean but don’t want to smell like it for the rest of the day.
Don’t be misled by the kickoff complimentary soup. Clear of broth and richly meaty, it’s spicy enough to clear sinuses and set lips abuzz, but these sensations were not once repeated over the course of our recent lunch. Kimchi jigae, a flame-red stew packed with pork, chunks of kimchi, and soft bean curd was tasty, comforting, and certainly filling but left us waiting, in vain, for the fiery punch that Korean food is known for. In Korea, barbecue is where it’s at, and Daorae does a good job prepping its meats for the grill. The restaurant’s in-table ‘cues don’t get quite hot enough (or are not allowed to preheat long enough) to properly char the meat, but despite their necessarily long turn over the (fake) coals both bulgogi (sliced sirloin) and go chu jan sam kyb sal (thinly sliced pork) tasted fine, hinting at soy and sugar marinade, and were exceptionally tender. Extra salad leaves for wrapping are available on request and at no extra charge, and whole garlic cloves are heated in a bit of oil at the side of the barbecue to mellow (but not obliterate) their intensity. Unfortunately, however, the accompanying bean paste tasted mostly of salt and was curiously flat, devoid (again) of that characteristic Korean kick.
Perhaps the biggest ‘eh’ moment of our meal came when the panch’an (small dishes) were delivered. Kimchi and ggakdugi (cubed daidon given the kimchi chilli treatment) were fine, if on the mild side, and it’s hard to go wrong with kong namul (cool blanched bean sprouts dressed with sesame oil), but fern shoots were mushy, pajeon (thin pancake of green onion) greasy and flabby, and the heavily mayonnaise-dressed macaroni salad just plain perplexing. Service is attentive, management obviously makes every effort to take care of its customers, and the restaurant’s light-filled upstairs dining room is a pleasant spot in which to kick back (shoeless). But Daorae serves Korean lite, fare that hints at the real deal but pulls back at the last minute. Perfect for the delicate palate, but a bit of a disappointment for anyone looking to taste-travel to Seoul. Robyn Eckhardt