While it’s not too difficult to find Korean-run restaurants, don’t expect to find any all you can eat places run by Koreans (with one exception).
1824 St. Catherine O (nearest metro: Guy Concordia)
Evenings: $21.99 Mon-Thu, $23.99 Fri-Sat
(There are lunch prices too but I forgot them)
Last visit: Jan 2012, # of visits: 1
This is the new place in town for Korean BBQ and my best guess is that they opened in December 2011. As a new restaurant there are some kinks that need to be ironed out. Overall it was not a bad experience but there is much to improve on. The grilled meat tasted good but don’t expect any authentic Korean flavours whatsoever. Let’s start off with one of the good aspects.
During evenings there is quite a good variety of raw meats to cook. You have chicken, pork, sliced beef, beef balls, beef tongue, beef short rib, fish fillet, salmon, squid, whole shrimp. On Friday and weekends, there is the addition of the mysterious “selected” beef, lamb and mussels. In my visit the “selected” beef was a mini steak of sorts. The meat selections come pretty fresh and most are tasty after some good grilling. Mussels come partially cooked which is good since I’m not sure how one would grill them. We ended up mostly keeping them in their shells and letting the heat make the mussels simmer in their own juices. My only real complaint refers to the beef rib. It’s not kalbi as one would expect, it’s a much thicker cut that takes longer to cook. It’s not bad though and a matter of preference really. My friend liked it a lot but I would have preferred a thinner cut similar to the LA Kalbi style.
The raw meat comes in small containers which are stackable (kudos to whoever thought of this since it saves what little table space you’ll likely have in a group), each holding about an ounce of meat (which is a nice small portion size that would comprise of 5-6 pieces of meat, or 2-3 pieces of fish or seafood). The bus people are pretty quick to clear out empty containers. If your grill becomes covered with too much char, you can ask someone to change it for you.
There are bottles of soy sauce and a mysterious sweetish bbq sauce which I guess are meant as your dipping sauces although the soy sauce is more for the sushi. Nothing remarkable about the bbq sauce although it can add flavour to the raw seafood which isn’t marinated like the meats are. Although I think all the meats have the same marinade.
There are also raw vegetables you can choose from but having no idea how to cook vegetables on a grill, I didn’t want to try. I don’t think grilling is a proper way to cook vegetables anyway so I avoided ordering them.
They also have some appetizers, cold dishes, sushi (nigiri and maki rolls) and desserts. Nothing special here really but it is nice to have raw fish to break up the eventual monotony that will occur as you get tired of eating grilled meats. It does start to all eventually taste the same after a while (which in that case you should probably ask to get the grill changed). The desserts consist of some ice cream or pudding. The mango ice cream I found surprisingly good.
As for the bad aspects, we did not receive a fair number of items that we ordered. Now almost any all you can eat will likely miss one or two items off an order once in a while but the frequency with which it happens here will likely put off a lot of people. I think we had items missing on at least half the orders we made. Luckily we were being served by someone who I assume is one of the managers (she was the only one wearing a business suit) and she would follow up on our missing items that we had attempted to order two or even three times sometimes. Our group did eventually get everything we wanted. This problem is likely exacerbated by the lack of paper order sheets (update: they now have order sheets).
The additional options that are added to the more expensive Friday and Weekend menus are not substantial enough to warrant the higher price. The only additions are Selected Beef, Lamb and Mussels and handrolls of which there are maki roll equivalents already in the Mon-Thu section.
To end off on a better note, the restaurant is spacious and has a nice dark style. You’ll certainly have more table space than say at Tian Xia. Although I can’t make a comparison on the food itself considering how long it’s been since I’ve gone to Tian Xia. Eventually I will try out Tian Xia again but in the evening for a comparison.
Another interesting note. They are open until 3am on some days.
2065 Bishop (nearest metro: Guy Concordia)
Lunch $13.95, Dinner $21.95
Last visit: 2010, # of visits: 1
I recently tried it at lunch (while some friends recently tried it at dinner). The price includes soft drinks which was a good surprise. At lunch you have a very limited choice of meats (only 4) to cook. Dinner time offers 11 choices of meats to cook (including seafood, lamb and beef short ribs aka kalbi) and they even offer salmon sashimi. Only available on weekends for dinner are deep fried sushi maki, green shell mussel and beef sashimi.
Banchan are served at the beginning (those small appetizers that are normally given for free before your main dishes in Korean restaurants). Cooked dishes can also be offered but some of what I tried like the seafood pancake (pajeon) and fried vegetables (ie tempura) should be avoided due to their overabundance of dough/batter (unless you like that). The kimchi udon was not half bad though. Bibimbap is available at dinner time.
Cooking the beef and chicken on the smokeless grill was fun and tasty. I don’t remember the surface accumulating with char much if at all but I could be mistaken. I didn’t like the pork though which was similar to tasteless strips of bacon with more fat than actual meat. The grill is different than what I expected. It occupies a rectangular space with heating elements under the long sides with a V-shaped sheet of metal with slots. Because of this, in order to cook the meat you place it closer to the sides rather than in the middle. You are given two pairs of chopsticks (one to handle the raw meat and one to eat with). The meat went well with the fresh crisp lettuce they supply at the table.
You also get three bowls which you can dip your meat in (or at least that’s what I thought they were for, they might actually be marinades that you dip your meats in first before grilling). One was like the sesame based dipping sauce that you get at hotpot, the second was I think a sweetish soy sauce bbq mixture and the last was cumin spice which when used gave the meat that nice Uyghur style flavour (a personal favourite of mine).
It’s not a large place and even with two people on a table for four, there is not much free table space with most of the space taken up by the grill. You’ll have to be a bit careful not to knock over something as your table gets filled with dishes. There is ventilation but like any BBQ place of this nature, expect your body and clothes to smell like meat for the rest of the day.
I liked the place and find the price to be pretty decent so I do recommend it but I have yet to try it in the evenings which I think would be a much better experience if only because of the much greater choice of raw meat. I’m not sure if the raw meats are marinated at all (I don’t remember but my friend swears that they are not…in any case it was still tasty to me).
update: not my update but someone took the time to write a comment about Tian Xia, he has a very different opinion based on a much more recent visit.
537 Sainte-Catherine O
(check their website for prices but essentially sushi price + $1 or $2, don’t quite remember exactly)
Last visit: May 2011, # of visits: 1 (for K-BBQ at bishop location)
Its main offering is all you can eat sushi and they only recently added all you can eat Korean BBQ at the locations above (some other locations offer Japanese Teppanyaki instead). I went with a friend to the bishop location on a Sunday evening. When opting for BBQ, it also includes all food options from the all you can eat sushi menu plus a small selection of drinks including bubble tea.
The meats available were beef, beef rib, chicken, pork, pork belly, squid, fish and shrimp. It was okay, not bad but not great. All the meats except for the beef and beef ribs weren’t marinated at all but even the beef was barely marinated with weak flavours. Based on how the raw meat would always be delivered last with the inside being redder than the outside when clumps of thins strips were stuck together, we guessed that the kitchen staff was probably just pouring some marinade on the meat when ordered then waiting about 10-20 mins before bringing the meat to the table. Also there are no dipping sauces of any kind made available and unlike the other places, the waiter didn’t give us an extra pair of chopsticks to handle the raw meat (so we just took some from a nearby table).
I actually had a slightly better experience with their sashimi/sushi this time. The salmon sashimi in particular was quite good, fresh and melt in your mouth, the other sashimi didn’t have much taste though and the red snapper had tiny bits of bone in it. Just for fun we cooked oilfish on the grill and discovered that it tasted very buttery when doing so. Cooked dishes were all mediocre and sometimes came lukewarm.
If it wasn’t already obvious to you by now, I don’t recommend Kanda for Korean BBQ or even sushi for that matter.
5545 Chemin Upper-Lachine
Apparently they have all you can eat BBQ but only if you are in a group of at least 6 people or more for $21.99 per person.
Here’s a review at Shut Up and Eat (but not concerning the the all you can eat).
2176 St. Catherine O
I have never tried the all you can eat Korean BBQ here (I think it’s $22). They also offer a combo for 2 at $30 that isn’t all you an eat which includes a Bibimbap. I have tried the combo for 2 at another location (3441 St. Denis) which didn’t have all you can on their menu (but I didn’t ask if it was available). It was alright but not as tasty as I was hoping for.
Here’s a review of the all you can eat option at This Is Why We’re Fat.