Love Meat Korean BBQ Stamford: Bring Your Appetite

above: The food at Love Meat Korean BBQ is served so that it can be shared with everyone at the table; the main course: New York Strip grilled with onions

Bring your biggest appetite to Love Meat Korean BBQ in Stamford

Eating at a table with a grill in the middle—how great is that? Korean BBQ is centered around that grill. Yet Love Meat Korean BBQ, the new all you-can-eat restaurant on Summer Street, is more than meat and pickled and fermented vegetables. It’s about gathering around the table and eating together.

Love Meat, which opened last November, is a fun place to go with a group, even just a group of two. The restaurant, a bilevel space with black walls and large video screens hanging from the ceiling, is youthful and music-filled. This isn’t a place for conversation. It’s about sitting at a big table and reaching in with your chopsticks, taking a piece of warm meat from the grill, swabbing it in gochujang, and wrapping it in a fresh piece of lettuce. Crisp, fresh lettuce; rich, grilled meat; and spicy umami sauce create a joyous bite—especially when it is followed with a bite of kimchi. Korean BBQ is an enjoyable dining experience, and we’re glad Love Meat BBQ is here so we don’t have to hike into New York City when we get the craving.

Gather around the grill table at Meat Love Korean BBQ to enjoy a range of dishes, starting with Banchan, small bowls of fresh and cooked veggies to awaken your appetite.

Banchan, side dishes, arrive first. Don’t wait to try them—they are meant to wake up the appetite. The server places eight bowls in a circle around the grill. What’s in them? An intriguing array of sweet and tangy, spicy and fermented, fresh and cooked vegetables. Radish ssam is paper-thin slices of white turnip in a sweet, mildly tangy pickle. Kimchi is the famous fermented Napa cabbage, and the leaves are pungent and spicy with red pepper; it’s probiotic, too.

Korean cuisine has a large repertoire of side dishes, among them sweet and starchy dishes. Clear noodles made from sweet potato starch have a pleasing springy texture. Slices of sweet potato are fried like tempura. A plate of coleslaw is finely shredded and lightly dressed, creating a fresh raw counterpoint. Individual bowls of warm, sticky rice are served, too.

Plates piled with fresh lettuce leaves are brought to the table with the plates of raw and marinated meat, seafood or chicken. The grill is electric (my dining companion and I have been to places in NYC where they used coals), and the servers have a knack for returning at the moment when the meat needs to be turned and then when it is done. Thicker cuts, like the marinated short ribs and the pork belly (both must-orders) are cooked in long strips, and then cut into pieces with scissors. Thin-sliced meat, like the brisket, arrives with the slices rolled and arranged like translucent pink flowers. Experienced Korean BBQ diners are apt to get right in there and cook the meat themselves.

Gochujang is the key flavoring in Korean food. It’s a sweet, spicy, umami-rich red chile pepper paste fermented with soybeans and rice. It flavors some of the marinades. Two big squirt bottles of gochujang  and soybean sauce are placed on the table as well. I squirted them into one of the compartments on the tin plate (which has a slightly, bare-bones, military vibe), so I could swab each piece of meat before wrapping them in lettuce. You can add rice and something pickled to that lettuce bundle, or follow up with bites of the side dishes. There’s no wrong way to do it.

A heartwarming bowl of pork Kimchi Stew

How does all-you-can eat work? Two all-day options (A and B) are available at lunch and dinner. Set A offers beef brisket, flat iron steak, marinated rib eye, and marinated short ribs, pork shoulder, jowl and short ribs. They have chicken breast, too. Option B includes New York strip, shrimp and squid and octopus dishes. (A weekday lunch menu has fewer options but also lower prices.) The entire table must order the same thing, and there’s so much variety that everyone gets a lot of good food.

Along with the regular side dishes automatically brought to the table, there are additional sides, including sweet and spicy fried chicken, glass noodles with vegetables, and dumplings. We choose the steamed egg, a light, fluffy dish served in a piping-hot cast-iron bowl. We were surprised to see a few American sides (French fries, sweet potato fries and fried mozzarella). At lunch, the extra sides are three stews, pork kimchi, beef brisket and vegetarian tofu.

The cost of set A ($42.99) or B ($47.99) might sound pricey, but servings are a lot of food and variety. You will not leave hungry.

One caveat, the fine print on the menu lays out a few reasonable rules (which indicate how many ways people will try to gin an all-you-can-eat system). You must eat the food in the restaurant; no doggy bags. Order just enough that your group can eat, because there’s a $20 charge for leftover food.

This restaurant also has a full bar, and the menu’s fruit-flavored Korean sojus are aimed at the younger crowd. Sake or beer go well with the food.

Meat Love brings an experience that every fan of fermentation, umami-flavors, grilled meat, fresh vegetables and conviviality can gather around the grill table to enjoy.

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