Black Angus wanders elegantly to GangnamSteak. There is something about a large chunk of charred, bloody meat that brings out the caveman in all of us. It is pure atavism. Ancient memories surface of sitting in the cave with Ug, grilling a lump of sizzling mammoth on a flint spear over a fire.
Of course, dining styles have changed somewhat in recent millennia.
Today, alas, we no longer grill mammoths. Why, if one even attempted to gently baste a small elephant these days there would likely be a public outcry! No, we must be content with the more sedate beasts of the field, the lowly cow being the prime choice for carnivores. But even so, when presented with a piece of charred cow, I often find it difficult to suppress the urge to ditch knife and fork, seize the dripping flesh and tear into it with my incisors.
Such behavior is not recommended at “Black Angus.” Don’t be fooled by the Scottish-sounding name: It is actually the latest U.S. franchise diner to hit these shores, offering the next level of sophistication beyond TGI Friday’s or Tony Roma’s. And it doesn’t serve U.S. meat either ― more on that later. With its subdued lighting, brown, woody hues, leather armchairs in the waiting area and somber bar, the ambience is something of a London or Boston gentlemen’s club. No Neanderthal manners here, please. However, the framed rodeo portraits on the wall remind one that diners come for cattle, not cigars n’ brandy.
The menu offers a range of grub, and while the emphasis is firmly (and properly) fixed on steak and ribs, there are also pastas, chicken and even fish.
We kick things off with an 18,300 won ($18.77) Wagon Wheel Sampler. This offers filled spud skins ― average ― fried chicken drumsticks ― fair ― chilled prawns with chili sauce ― not bad at all ― and a creamy spinach and cheese dip, served with rusks ― excellent. (Note to self: Order the spinach dip next time.)
Then it’s time for mains. Baby Back Ribs and BBQ Chicken (23,900 won) is a generously loaded platter with an excellent ― and surprisingly spicy ― sauce. Mushroom and Blue Cheese Sirloin (22, 900 won) proves a rather tough proposition which could be rarer, but the blue cheese sauce is commendably powerful. Finally, the Filet Mignon (29,900 won) is a superb chunk of herbivore: thick, moist and super tender.
What are particularly commendable are the sides, which go a long way beyond the usual baked jacket spud, fries or side salad. For 3, 500 won, garlic mashed potatoes and/or haystack onion strings are a real treat, as are the steak toppings of sauteed mushrooms and sweet onions (2,200 won).
A wide range of grog is served, from wines to cocktails, and there is a pretty sophisticated range of non-alcoholic beverages too, including raspberry and strawberry lemonade. One beef: Service meandered over at a cow’s pace ― though once it eventually arrived, things picked up to a reasonable clip.??
Endorsers? Tami Overby, the formidable president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, asserts: “I love a good steak, and the steaks here are excellent!” Never one to miss a PR op, she stakes out her position further, stating, “And it will be even better when they get American beef!”
Currently, the cow is from Down Under, but that is expected to change in April. The sooner the better, say I. Not because I have any bone to pick with Aussie cattle, but because renewed imports of Uncle Sam’s steaks will likely drive down beef prices across the market ― excellent news for any carnivore.
Verdict: Pricey stuff ― it costs more to slaughter and butcher a cow than it does a carrot, sadly ― but still not a bad place to visit, given the generous servings of dead animal and the excellent sauces. So: Ug! Leave that club at the door!
Address: B1, KTB Network Building, Yeoksam Dong 826-14, Gangnam
Subway: Gangnam, Exit 2
Hours: 11:00AM-11:00PM, seven days
Dress: Business/smart casual
by Andrew Salmon