It’s not often you go to a restaurant and cook your own food — but at Bulgogi, it’s all part of the fun.
The Korean barbecue restaurant has brought the popular Asian dining tradition to Leeds — so we headed to the restaurant on Sunday evening to have a go at barbecuing our own dinner.
The restaurant, in Merrion Way, near Leeds Arena, is quite small — we were seated immediately but I imagine it would be wise to book a table for a Friday or Saturday evening.
Cosy, comfortable booths line both sides of the venue, each fitted with its own sunken table-top barbecue, dome-shaped and perforated to make the food healthier and allow the fat to drain off.
The restaurant works with a set menu in the evening, but it includes everything you could possibly want to grill and then some.
A small but delicious starter of vegetable manu dumplings and kimbap — Korean sushi — is followed by an impressive selection of meat and fish for the grill, accompanied by rice, lettuce, sauces and vegetables.
The dumplings were hot and flavoursome, with wonderfully crisp pastry. My only complaint about the kimbap is that there wasn’t more of it — I love sushi!
But it was the main event — the main course barbecue — that really impressed.
Mouth-watering platters of beef, pork, Bulgogi marinated beef, Bulgogi marinated duck, prawns and squid were all brought to the table with garlic, mushrooms and onions too.
Then there was the sticky rice, lettuce leaves and sauces, from soy through to a spicy Korean offering.
There were also side dishes of deep fried courgettes, pickles, spiced beansprouts, rice noodle salads and more — we suddenly had a table full of ingredients for our Korean feast.
The idea is that you cook the meat on the grill, then wrap it in a lettuce leaf with the rice and side dishes, add a drizzle of sauce, and enjoy - visit the Examiner website to see the grill in action.
It can be a bit messy at times — but the flavours are fantastic. The variety of meats and sides means you can make each wrap completely different, try new combinations, or dig in with your chopsticks to eat all of the elements seperately.
It’s a social dining experience — if you’re not recommending meats to each other, you’re constantly passing the little side dishes around and asking each other ‘is this cooked?’.
The meat was beautifully tender, thinly sliced and cooked within minutes. The Bulgogi marinade was subtle but delicious, and the prawns and squid tasted lovely barbecued.
Throughout your meal you can request more rice, lettuce, sauces and sides to accompany the meat, and the staff were efficient at keeping everything topped up.
It’s a relatively healthy dinner choice, and deceptively filling — and although we persevered, we didn’t quite manage to finish it all.
But we had a great time trying! The novelty of placing meat on the grill, preparing your lettuce wrap and braving the spicier sauces doesn’t wear off.
It’s not a restaurant for vegetarians — but meat lovers will certainly leave satisfied.
Bulgogi Grill Leeds
9 Merrion Way, The Merrion Centre, Leeds LS2 8BT
Opening hours: 12pm-2.30pm and 6pm-11pm Monday to Saturday, 6pm-11pm Sundays
Children - Yes - but watch little fingers around the hot grill plate!
Disabled access - Yes
The bill: £80.15 for three people — £22.95 each for the food, £3.65 for a bottle of Asahi beer, £3.70 for two honey and plum teas and £3.95 for a 175ml glass of house red.
Would you go back? Absolutely!