Our new, favorite beef tartare is Korean.
Not to long ago, local blogger Dive Bars 2 Five Stars wrote a blog post about a meal at Joo Joo Korean Restaurant & Karaoke. His photo of a raw beef dish nestling an egg yolk caught my eye. I had never seen a Korean beef tartare before. Soon after, we all met at Joo Joo and tried it for ourselves, along with several more dishes.
Joo Joo’s spread of banchan is more concise than Asian Kitchen spread of 20 dishes. They are slightly larger portions, though, and we liked everything. At Asian Kitchen, there are usually one-two banchan that feature tiny dried fish.
Our friends recommend we try the rice cake appetizer. We enjoyed this dish at Asian Kitchen and like both versions. Korean rice cake tastes mild and has a soft and chewy texture. Joo Joo’s also incorporates sliced fish cake and a hardboiled egg. We kept going back for more scoops of the sweet and spicy sauce.
We asked the woman next to us what she was enjoying and she suggested the octopus. Tentacles freak me out. Especially the little suction cups. “What about the squid?” I asked Jake. He shook his head no. He was set on trying the octopus.
There’s really no neat way to eat the tiny, little octopuses except to pop them into your mouth and eat them whole. They’re chewy like squid; not tough, but not tender enough to take a bite unless you want to tug and splatter chili sauce all over your face when you finally get that bite.
The raw beef dish arrived last. You won’t find it on the menu so you’ll have to up at the wall where several sets of laminated signs hang. One of these signs features the raw beef dish. Do know that it costs $27. The portion is much larger than typical servings of beef tartar we’ve ordered. And just as Dive Bars 2 Five Stars recommends, it’s probably best split between three-four people.
We weren’t exactly sure how to eat this dish. Do we dig right in or eat it with rice? We gently mixed the beef with the egg yolk and took our first bites.
The beef was silky and tender. Instead of resembling ground hamburger, the beef was carefully chopped into tiny, uniform slivers without any fat or gristle. The egg added a clean-tasting, silky richness while the pine nuts and sesame seeds popped with each bite. Shortly after we tasted the dish, a man who appeared to be one of the owners walked over and helped us mix the egg yolk into the beef more thoroughly.
We tasted punchy garlic, ginger, and something sweet. “This is so good,” I kept saying out loud. The dish may have been intended for more than two people to share but we polished it off. The leftovers wouldn’t have saved well, anyway, we kept telling ourselves.
Joo Joo’s raw beef dish tastes like it’s made with care. The balance of sweet and savory flavors made this a dish craveable. In hindsight, we noticed that our dish was missing the julianned Asian pear matchsticks. My favorite Korean cooking blogger Maangchi wrote a fantastic post about making this dish (yukhoe) at home. The recipe doesn’t look difficult to make. The most important factor seems to be obtaining the freshest beef possible since it is served raw. I bet Bolyard’s could hook me up.
Have you ever tried Korean beef tartare or prepared a raw beef dish at home?