Cycle 3 – Item 344
14 (Fri) December 2012
at Copacabana Grill
-Itaewon, Yongsan, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
Project 30/30/30: 44 of 45 (see also 45/45/45)
Throughout the past November, I challenged myself to eat 30 dishes from 30 countries over the course of 30 consecutive days – and succeeded. I will continue the project until I run out of dishes or countries or restaurants or steam or money, aiming for 50.
Brazil is the 44th country.
I don’t deal very well with restaurants offering food in unlimited amount. For one thing, especially when I’m paying, even if it isn’t particularly expensive, I feel obligated to get the biggest bang for the buck, which is odd because I don’t necessarily clear the plate to maximize the value of a set-serving meal. So, I end up restricting myself to the most “valuable” items available – a relative term as quality and quantity tend to be inversely proportional where commercially prepared food is concerned – and then consuming as much of them as possible, although I might rather eat something else and less of it. Ultimately, I’m left painfully stuffed on crap that probably isn’t worth the calories.
Alas, while Korea has many Brazilian restaurants – at least 10 in the Seoul metropolitan area alone – they only offer all-u-can-eat rodizio-style churrasco, nothing à la carte, as far as I’m aware. On top of my general aversion to the limitless chowdown, I wasn’t thrilled by the prospect of eating, much less photographing and writing about, a vicious cycle of skewered meats, similarly tasting, predictably various cuts of beef. And frankly, by this point in the project, all I really want is a quick bite just to register another country and be done with it, all-u-can-eat rodizio-style churrasco being the opposite of that. But, unless I cooked something Brazilian at home, which I didn’t have time to do, I had no choice.
Fortunately, the food at Copacabana Grill was very good. The churrasco included 7 types of meat. At first bite – starting with a thin slice of beef referred to on the menu as “steak” – what stood out was that the meat was very well-seasoned, simply yet sufficiently. By contrast, the meat at other churrascaria that I’ve been to in Korea was usually somewhat bland, probably in deference to the self-contradictory tastes of Korean customers, who often complain about the supposed saltiness of foreign foods while Korean food (e.g., kimchi) is extremely high in sodium. But this establishment, located in the heart of Itaewon with an overwhelmingly expat customer base, apparently didn’t need to hold back. The best cut was the “bottom sirloin”: juicy and flavorful – I had 3 servings, to get my money’s worth, but I enjoyed every piece. In addition to the churrasco, other dishes were offered on a buffet table, such as rice and potatoes and pasta, as well as a variety of excellent salads and pickles that paired quite nicely with the meats, enhancing the overall experience. A decent bargain at 28,000 won per person. My personal aversion to the concept notwithstanding, I enjoyed the meal.
Dining alone this evening, I was struck by a revelation. When I entered the place – camera in hand – and requested a single seating, the hostess/manager directed me to a table in the corner, explained that it had the best lighting for photographs, but requested that I refrain from photographing the other customers. Obviously, she sensed that I wasn’t there just to eat. During the meal, between taking bites and shots of the food, more evaluation than enjoyment, I realized that I would never want to be a full-time restaurant critic, cursed with the occupational hazard of having to be so clinically analytical about every dish placed before me, forced to be there, often solo, just because the restaurant required review. Granted, I’m a food writer of sorts, but I do maintain the freedom to eat where/when/what/why/how I please.
(See also BOOZE)
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)
(See also RESTAURANTS IN KOREA)