Asian barbecue places need to get two things right: a smokeless, greaseless environment and produce that feels fresh enough to eat it raw. Seoul is a winner on both counts. Unrelated to the Seoul Grill chain owned by Sukishi, it opened in 1986 and claims to be Bangkok’s first authentic Japanese-owned yakiniku. It draws in a steady flow of Japanese, Koreans, Thais and Western expats who come for good produce and reasonable prices in a no-frills dining room.
Thonglor is often trendy, but Seoul has the warmth of a little standalone joint: it is operated by a matriarch who takes out advertorials in Japanese magazines to both warn of the expired frozen products at all-you-can eat Korean grill buffets and profess her use of produce she’d feed her own children. Staff, too, have a friendly rapport.
As you can tell from the venue’s slightly odd name, the menu takes its cues from Japan and Korea. You can pop in for a katsu set (deep-fried, bread pork cutlet, B180), grilled saba set (B180) or even sashimi (tuna B300, salmon B360). But most people here bring the kids or a few friends to feast on bibimbap and DIY grilled meats.
Living up to its claims, Seoul’s produce never disappoints. The meats are springy and a healthy shade of red—none of that dry grayish stuff from the back of the freezer. The Kobe (B800) and kurage wagyu (B500)—rich, marbled cuts of decadently fatty beef—are exceptional. But at B320, the “special” karubi, is just as good and much more reasonably priced, as are the short ribs (B290).
The scallops (B170) aren’t nearly as flavorful, despite the little iron pan filled with butter and garlic you cook them in, so we’re just going to assume the six-item seafood menu is an afterthought best ignored altogether. The garlic fried rice (B35) is fluffy and tasty, but if you’re not feeling the whole barbecue thing, Seoul also does a delicious bibimbap rice bowl (B180) which stands out for the rice’s perfect blend of textures, from crispy to soft.
With only four sake (B150-380) and six sochu options (B280-1,300), “mama’s” barbecue is no izakaya
, but some will actually prefer Seoul’s familial atmosphere to some of its grittier competitors.
This review took place in May 2015 and is based on a visit to the restaurant without the restaurant's knowledge. For more on BK's review policy, click here.