Leeds has a number of oriental cuisines covered, whether it be Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Indonesian and Malaysian food being quite easy to get your hands on. However, the same couldn’t be said for Korean, this was until Bulgogi Grill opened last year. Korean food is something I’ve dabbled in, but not to a great extent, so news of this opening put the place straight onto my to visit list!! Months passed still without a visit, then after trying my first Bibimbap a few weeks ago down south, it reminded me that Leeds had its very own Korean spot to try out.
Bulgogi Grill has become part of the improving Merrion Centre, adding to an increasing list food and drink venues, making it a good spot for those visiting the First Direct Arena being just a stones throw away. Recently a friend and I made it our mission to go and get our fill, with a number of positive reviews already written about the place, it promised much. Having not taking the time to book, we could’ve easily been scuppered as the arena had a gig on, but we snagged a table they were clearing as we walked in. One of the first things that greets you, apart from the staff was the smell of grilling meat and the marinade. If my mouth wasn’t already watering at the thought of chargrilled meats, then the waft of smells on entering the building was seriously more than enough to do it!!
The restaurant itself is filled with intimate booths, each with a dedicated extractor fan hanging down from the ceiling and a grill which can reach up to 300°C! For £22.95 each, the evening menu comprises of a starter with two different items (dumplings and kimbap), then an assortment of different meats and seafood for the BBQ, accompanied by a whole host of sauces, rice, lettuce and side dishes.
From the outset the staff were great, making us feel comfortable and this continued throughout our evening. As the evening panned out they were present without being overbearing, observant enough to check if any side dishes needed topping up, and every now and again they’d alter the temperature on the BBQ.
To start there’s just one choice; the vegetable mandu dumplings with kimbap. The dumplings were crisp and tasty, probably overshadowing the kimbap, the korean version of a sushi roll. As we received two of each on a plate per person, it seemed at the time quite slim pickings and lasted a couple of minutes to polish off.
Next up the main event, staff started to bring out a whole plethora of items in small bowls (banchan), including deep fried courgettes, pickled vegetables, kimchi and vermicelli noodles, alongside a selection of sauces, rice and lettuce.
Now even before we’d stepped into the restaurant my friend had proclaimed that she wanted ‘meat’ and this was exactly what we got!! Bringing out beef lightly brushed in sesame oil, slices of pork, seasoned prawns and squid seasoned with a Korean soy sauce. Finally the Bulgogi beef and duck which are their specialities, where the meat is prepared in a delicious marinade.
The concept is pretty simple – cook your protein of choice as you desire, then wrap it in lettuce with rice and whatever accompaniments you choose. After I’d stopped being greedy and filling the lettuce too much, I got the knack and thoroughly enjoyed the experience!! If I was to find fault it would be that I expected the kimchi to have more punch, it had plenty of flavour, but the distinctive fiery kick was missing.
To finish we were given a shot of Aloe water to help clean the palate.
I’d definitely go again, I really enjoyed the whole cook your own thing and they don’t scrimp on portion sizes. A few friends of mine had been put off by the price, but I think the amount of choice on offer and the refillable extras makes it very much worth it! We’d hardly eaten all day, keeping ourselves for Bulgogi and neither of us could finish everything! We ordered the whole menu for two people, but to be honest we would’ve been very happy with a portion for one, and just use lots of the extras!
Yeah, some people may think why go to a restaurant where you have to cook your own!? Not that every meal out I want to cook my own food, certainly not, but I do think it adds to the experience and at least you can cook your food exactly how you want without any fuss!
Also for those who may want a meat-free option, they can cater with a vegetarian menu, they just need 24hrs notice !
The Arena Quarter
9 Merrion Way