Not a bad steak ― for DaehangnoSome weeks back, I had the misfortune to review a discount Japanese steak restaurant. As that was not an enjoyable experience, I was reluctant to sample a similar cuisine again, but the wife insisted she knew a place serving good Japanese-style steaks. My trepidation increased when she told me it was in Daehangno. This entertainment district is jammed with funky places to drink, but, with the exception of Pizzeria di Matteo’s, I don't recall ever eating a decent meal here ― in my experience, it's a culinary desert. But can a chap argue with his wife?
No. So here we are at Stonegrill. (The restaurant sign confusingly says “Prime Steak.”) Set in a villa-type house on a quiet side street in otherwise raucous Daehangno, you enter via a small garden terrace, set with tables shaded by green parasols ― now that the weather is warming up, rather a nice spot. Inside, decor is plain blacks and whites, with a touch of potted green bamboo adding a splash of color. But put your visual senses aside, and allow your snout free reign. The latter organ will inform you that you are in the right place: the air is infused with the unmistakable ― and delicious ― smell of slaughtered beast.
Menu offers a range of sets, predominantly steak-based, but including chicken, pork, fish, lobster and even lamb chops. Lunch sets are in the area of 15,000 won ($13), but recalling our previous unpleasant experience with discount steak, we order from the a la carte: ribeye steak (29,000 won for 240 grams, or 8 ounces) and the skewered meat combination (17,000 won).
First comes a rather generous bread basket, then a side salad. This is your Mark I, bog-standard salad: iceberg lettuce, cherry toms, etc, etc, etc. Cream of pumpkin soup is your Mark I, bog-standard cream soup: bland, baby, bland. But we are here for the meat.
This arrives on a rectangular slab of sizzling stone, heated to a fearsome 400 degrees. My steak is a fair-sized chunk, so the drill is to cut it ― serrated steak sabers are provided ― and cook it in parts. The meat is a touch fatty, but otherwise rather good. When cooking, the key is not to let it dry out. The combination offers chunky skewers of chicken, port and beef. All fine.
In addition to the meat, there are veggies: onion, courgette, sweet potato and, oddly, banana. (If you have not yet tried stone-grilled banana, you should.) The sweet, brown dipping sauce is more appropriate for chicken or pork; beef demands something stronger. Take a tip and pour a touch of vino onto your slab ― that will do the trick.
Speaking of vino, the wine list here is one of the cheapest ― most bottles are in the 30-40,000 won range ― and most cheerful I have come across. We order a bottle of the house gargle, an Argentinian Norton 2002 Cabby Sauv. Light in the body, but very fruity and with some pretty virile tannins, this is a decent red-meat wine.
For dessert, it is tea, coffee or “pudding.” The latter proves to be a strawberry and cream mousse ― rather good, and very summery. Service is young, pleasant and child-friendly. Our waitress also spoke a bit of English, which was an unexpected bonus.
Verdict: Not bad ― which means, for Daehangno, excellent. If you want a steak with a difference, this could be the place.
English: Some spoken (if you get the right waitress).
Menu: Includes some English.
Subway: Hyehwa Station, line no. 4.
Address: 1-155 Dongsoong-dong, Jongno-gu.
Hours: 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.
Telephone: (02) 764-6464.
Parking: Very limited.
Dress code: Come as you are.
by Andrew Salmon
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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