Myungwolgwan restaurant: Home of the fanciest (and most expensive) Korean barbecue
Myongwolgwan, the Korean barbecue restaurant at the Sheraton Grande Walkerhill Seoul, is an unusual establishment for a number of reasons.
First, it is the only Korean barbecue house run by a luxury hotel in Seoul.
In general, Korean luxury hotels rarely house Korean restaurants, and while this has been criticized often in the local press, the Korean hotel dining scene continues to cater more toward locals (and international guests) who prefer Western, Chinese or Japanese cuisine when it comes to finer dining.
It is also ridiculously large (total seating 700) and almost too beautiful for a barbecue restaurant, housed as it is in a painted hanok -- traditional wood-frame Korean architecture.
The menu too, gets quite creative for a barbecue joint, which may have been one of the reasons why the place was voted No. 1 in the Korean cuisine category in the 2010 Zagat Guide to Seoul restaurants.
Case in point: the restaurant’s assistant sous chef Kim Yong Cheol, 42, spent six months developing his latest menu: Jang-hyang galbi, which has a base of doenjang (bean paste) instead of the standard soy sauce.
Instead of the lighter, sweeter taste of most marinated galbi, Jang-hyang galbi has a unique, deep flavor for which Kim has applied for a patent.
He also spent considerable time creating a spicier version. The main ingredient is a type of especially spicy chili pepper originally originally grown in Cheongyang.
“We actually get a lot of requests for spicy dishes from Chinese and Japanese guests, which was why I decided to create the second version,” says the 18-year expert on Korean cuisine and barbecue.
“It was so difficult to choose the degree of spiciness, and we went with the not too spicy flavor. It might still be a little difficult for Westerners.”
Finally, Myongwolgwan is notable for being outrageously expensive, and usually caters to the Walkerhill hotel guests or foreign companies’ business dinners or conferences (Toyota earlier this week).
The restaurant also sells wrapped packages of meat and kimchi for customers to take home as gifts.
The most expensive choice on the menu is unmarinated hanwoo (Korean beef) short ribs, at ₩220,000 or US$194 per serving.
“Hanwoo is significantly more expensive for good reason,” says Kim.
“Due to Korea’s lack of land, our cows simply cannot move around as much, and they are thus fed grain fodder instead of having to feed for themselves. This results in better marbled beef than that of the U.S. or Australia, for example.”
21 Gwangjang-dong, Gwangjin-gu, Seoul (서울시 광진구 광장동 21); +82 2 450 4595; noon-10 p.m. daily; www.sheratonwalkerhill.co.kr/en/dining/myongwolgwan
More on CNN: 10 best Korean restaurants in Seoul