Smile Politely

Grilling this summer at Star BBQ

In a Savoy stripmall sits a building emblazoned with the words “Star BBQ” and “Sushi.” This is really all it takes to get my attention: food words in bold fonts. I’m in.

The outside of Star BBQ reads

Photo by Caitlin Aylmer.

After entering through the set of double doors, the open dining room stretched out before me. The kitchen and a vestigial sushi bar were nestled in the back. Numerous large, comfortable booths were neatly arranged in three rows. The arrangement did a fantastic job at creating an ambiance that felt intimate but not claustrophobic.

In order to use the circular gas grills at each of the tables, two or more items for the barbecue section must be ordered. Otherwise, the chosen entree can be prepared by the kitchen. I knew I wanted the Korean barbecue experience, but I don’t eat meat, so I enlisted the help of my husband and daughter on this expedition.

Photo by Cailtlin Aylmer.

For our inaugural order, we decided on samgyeopsal pork belly ($26.99), saeng deungsim premium beef rib eye ($38.99), tteokbokki ($14.99), and kim mal yi fried seaweed rolls ($5.99).

Our orders came out in prompt succession.

Photo by Cailtlin Aylmer.

Kim mal yi was quickly devoured by my fellow diners and me, living up to all expectations. It was crunchy tempura enveloping salty and savory nori wrapped around springy noodles; what’s not to love? This is one of Daughter’s favorite appetizers, and judging by the speed she consumed them, these are exceptional.

Photo by Cailtlin Aylmer.

Tteokbokki has been climbing my personal list of favorite comfort foods in recent years, and I was very pleased with Star BBQ’s rendition. The rice cakes were perfectly plump, and the sauce nailed the spicy and sweet balance. Once the hard boiled egg yolk mixed into the sauce, it added a velvety richness that was irresistible.

Photo by Cailtlin Aylmer.

Next up was the all-important banchan, or the little side dishes served with the order. I’ll be honest: these are what I was there for. Banchan is intended to complement the flavors of the grilled meat, but they are absolutely delicious in their own right. The lineup will be slightly different at every establishment, and I was excited to find out what the selection was here.

We were first given garden salads with a creamy dressing. It was rich without being too heavy, and I actually found it provided a nice contrast to the gochujang-based tteokbokki sauce. The main banchan was made up of fish cakes, seasoned bean sprouts, pickled radish, sesame broccoli, potato salad, and kimchi. All were tasty and paired well with the ordered dishes, but the two stars of this line-up for me were the potato salad and kimchi. The kimchi was perfectly punchy. The softened cabbage had just the right amount of structure. I finished off a serving of it myself with just rice. Our lovely host offered to bring us as much as we’d like and confirmed it is made by them in-house. Some day, I’ll have to get her recipe.

Photo by Cailtlin Aylmer.

As I sampled my way through the banchan, our hostess set up our grill. The blue flame ignited under the removable metal cooking surface, which she treated liberally with butter. Daughter was captivated. Husband iswasclicking the tiny tongs provided to us. There is nowhere else either one would rather be at this moment.

Photo by Cailtlin Aylmer.

The rib eye was the first on the cooktop, searing in the melted butter. There were three other tables cooking at the same time as us, and not a hint of smoke was in the air. I was impressed with their HVAC system. Husband said the first piece was slightly overcooked, but he was able to adjust his method by the second. Daughter was so taken with this interactive dinner that she ate nearly a whole rib eye herself.

Photo by Cailtlin Aylmer.

Everyone was quite full by the time we put the pork belly on the grill, so we used the time to relax as it cooked. I insisted on tasting the pork belly right off the grill. It earned a double thumbs up. Additionally, considering how quickly it was eaten with breakfast the next morning, it keeps very well as a leftovers.

Photo by Cailtlin Aylmer.

The service we had was nothing short of spectacular. My six-year-old insisted on bringing a stuffed caterpillar she made in camp that day as her dining companion. Not only did our lovely hostess listen to this caterpillar’s creation story (at great length), she asked follow-up questions. That level of consideration alone is worthy of sainthood in my opinion. She then brought extra butter, so kiddo could have her own side of soy butter rice and warmly answered my own myriad of questions. The outstanding hospitality and delicious food have already brought us back for a second visit. 

Photo by Cailtlin Aylmer.

Korean barbecue is meant to be a communal affair, and portion sizes were in line with that.  We not only left happily full but with leftovers. Personally, I see that as a win-win. If you’re leftover-adverse, be sure to bring your friends or family as using the grill really is a highlight you’ll want to share. In fact, our hostess mentioned that their late hours and proximity to the Savoy cinema make it a popular dinner option for groups coming from the movies.    

I highly recommend sitting in one of the booths along the walls if available. The high partitions between each section create cozy alcoves perfect for chatting, grilling, eating, and letting the rest of the world disappear for a couple of hours. 

Star BBQ
1209 Savoy Plaza Ln
T-Th 4 p.m. to midnight
F-Su noon to midnight

Top image by Caitlin Aylmer.

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