Review: Hallyu Korean BBQ & Bar is a New Gem in Tamarac’s Dining Scene

Photos by Han Okcuoglu

By Han Okcuoglu

Hallyu Korean BBQ & Bar recently opened its doors at 6800 N University Drive in Tamarac.

From the intricate and thoughtful details of the restaurant itself to the high quality of its food, it is hands down the best Korean BBQ restaurant we have ever been to.

The space is very large, with colorful neon sculptures, a giant mural with an ode to every pop culture reference from Korea, and big screens playing non-stop Korean pop music videos. (Thankfully, it’s not too loud, but this is not a quiet night out and more of a party restaurant, so not for everyone). They even have private karaoke rooms with grills to eat and have fun.

The owner, Ray Park, was in that night and was more than happy to talk to us and share his story. He described coming to America in the 1970s with a few dollars to his name to eventually owning the first and only Build-a-Bear store in South Korea.

I asked how that translated to his first foray into restaurants, and he explained that he’s been around Florida many times over the years searching for authentic and good-tasting Korean food. However, he had been disappointed so many times that he took one of the top 10 chefs in South Korea and brought him to the U.S. to create the menu. His national pride was evident in every aspect of the restaurant.

It’s also apparent he put many resources into the entire project, including the tables and round grills built into each. It’s state of the art, as he pointed out the lack of odor you would expect and find at other restaurants where food is being cooked on every table. I’m not sure how he pulled that off. The grill takes seconds on each side to cook most of the meats.

The menu is simple, but the food is incredible. The left side of the menu is the extra sides you can order. The right side is the $35 all-you-can buffet of meats you can order from, including beef, pork, chicken, or seafood options.

Four sides come standard, and each was better than the last. The kimchee was more spicy than the others but layered with spices and acidity. My favorite was the beet-pickled radish paper. Thin, crunchy, and soaked in this phenomenal pickled juice.

Ray gave us a great personal suggestion and asked us to dunk each meat into the soy pickled onion and jalapeño bowl to provide some extra saltine flavors with mild heat. He was absolutely right. It went great.

Not included were the baked corn cheese and the steamed custard egg. The baked corn cheese had a creamy sauce with a surprising sweetness, and it was fantastic, with gooey cheese slathered on somewhat crispy corn bites. We devoured that. The Korean-style steamed custard egg was like an elevated egg souffle. I thought the seasoning was a bit lacking, considering every other dish was so rich, but it was still very good.

The fried pork dumplings need their own paragraph. They were that delicious. Perfectly crispy, and like many dishes, they chose an extra burst of saltiness to go with the very tender pork mix inside.

Customers can order three different meats at a time, and each one is visually a treat. I decided to attach precooked pictures because people might cook their own varying lengths.

They brought three sauces out for dipping, including a traditional soy sauce. Another is a red soy paste, which is very salty and strong in a good way. The last white one is their version of a yum-yum sauce, sweet and an excellent balance for most of the steaks. However, the overnight marinades are so delicious that most meats can be eaten alone.

These are some of the best-quality proteins I’ve ever seen on a menu like this. We tried everything but the seafood. Premium thin briskets perfectly sliced, beef belly with narrow strips of fats that cooked instantly on the stove and added depth, thickly sliced tenderized soy-marinated pork belly, chicken thighs beautifully marinated in a special house soy house, the feast went on and on with each bite taking no more than 30 seconds total to cook, most less.

My personal favorite was the Hallyu Olive Steak, which was a Suwon-style olive oil-marinated tenderized top-blade steak with green olives embedded. The Korean Beef Bulgogi had a brown sugar and soy glaze that just melted in the mouth along with the meat. Our group just kept looking at each other in disbelief with most bites.

Since they were technically still in the soft opening phase, they had no desserts yet. Still, we were informed by our accommodating waitress, Lucy, that Ray had already contracted one of the top Korean bakeries in Florida to handle the imminent dessert menu.

There are some house rules to be aware of before visiting. They only take reservations for groups of seven or more, so wait times for smaller tables are very long. There is a two-hour dining limit (that was not really enforced for our group of four). Leftovers cannot be taken to go. An 18% gratuity is automatically added to tables of five or more. Children four and under eat free, and children ages five to ten eat half off.

They also impose a $5 waste fee for meat left on the plate. (I love this rule since many cultures [including mine] frown on wasting food.)

Ray informed us this is to be the flagship restaurant, and his goal within the next few years is to have six Hallyu franchises up and running throughout Florida within the next few years. We left thinking we were lucky to have the first one close by in South Florida.

Hallyu is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to midnight. For reservations, call 954-761-5227.

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