Spicy Grill, Golders Green
Korean food is big news at the moment, with all manner of cool street food, pop-ups and places like Shackfuyu springing up, but up until now I'd been oblivious to a hidden gem on my own doorstep. Spicy Grill on Golders Green Road doesn't look up to much from the outside, has a completely generic forgettable name and doesn't even have a website so we were pleasantly surprised to find some top notch dishes coming to the table. It was reassuringly full of Korean diners, so we were confident we were on to a goodun'.
The menu is vast and quite confusing, so we asked our waitress to help us out. A good proportion of the dishes are intended to be grilled at the table in the traditional Korean BBQ style, but this all feels a bit like hard work sometimes when you're the one paying the bill, so you can also have the chef do this for you in the kitchen. Ideal. The rest of the menu is a lot of noodles and bibimbap style dishes. There are quite a few set menu options available if you don't fancy leafing through it all but we decided to get a mixture of small-ish dishes to share, starting with the waitress's personal fave of the seafood pancake.
It was completely fantastic and really unlike anything I've had before, but I suppose the closest thing to compare it to would be a very Asian glam frittata or tortilla. It was highly flavoured and packed with seafood and spring onion with a fantastic crispy fried base and edges. So good.
I can't for the life of me remember what the steak tartare style dish was billed as on the menu, but safe to say we were very happy with what appeared. The beef was beautifully lean and had been marinated in something like mirin to great effect.
Less successful was the cooked steak. It was a kind of thin rib eye on the bone and we'd asked for it to be medium rare. It was not. The cut of meat had not benefited from whatever treatment it had received and it was kind of flabby but overcooked. Perhaps we should have been less lazy and cooked our own:
The pork belly was equally sad. In my experience the Koreans are excellent at pork belly, but not today.
The flavours were good thanks to the high heat from the grill and the spring onion and vegetables on the base were tasty, but meat that fatty needs more love than a quick blast over the coals. A shame.
More successful was the Korean fried chicken. We went for a small portion for about £6 and had to double check with the waitress that she'd got it right when it arrived as it was seriously giant. It was as sticky, crunchy and succulent as it should be - proper Korean style junk food.
The nutty topping added another level of crunch and I was quite impressed with it. My only complaint is that we'd gone for the extra spicy option, and it was not.
The bill came to around £50 for the two of us including a couple of Korean beers each. We paid it happily, pleased with our new discovery five minutes from home.
PS. They were also very nice to Leo