SuperStar BBQ is one of the newest Asian restaurant upgrades to hit the London streets, slotting in neatly with Ippudo and Kanada-Ya. Whether by plan or just a twist of fate, it’s the replacement to the old rundown cheap and cheerful Korean restaurants that used to be hidden behind Tottenham Court Road. But there’s nothing rundown about this snazzy joint and, while not cheap as chips, it’s seems reasonably priced for the location and quality although this time we dined as guests of the restaurant. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable but manage a good balance in that they are attentive but not overbearing, and the décor is low-key and relaxing.
What you need to know:
- The menu is pretty extensive and the set menus are comprehensive options to try it all
- It’s not cheap – expect to spend around £30pp for a good meal (more if you have drinks)
- You can opt to bbq meats or get one of the staff to do it for you
- Come hungry – the food portions look small but the sheer number of bowls will fill you up
Food: ★★★★☆ Service: ★★★★☆ Atmosphere: ★★★☆☆ Value: ★★★★☆ Overall: ★★★★☆
The restaurant itself lacks an obvious bar, but that’s no issue given you’ve got a string of quality bars in the nearby Covent Garden/Seven Dials area. You can’t go wrong with a happy hour cocktail or two at London Cocktail Club or Kopapa is pretty good too.
What to eat?
The problem with an all-encompassing menu is that it can be quite hard to choose exactly what you want – particularly if you are like me and want to try everything. Fortunately, Superstar BBQ has lined up 3 set menu options ranging from £25-35pp provided you order for at least 2 people.
Well, there were two of us so we elected to go for Set Menu 3 with a side of KFC wings. The set menu includes all the classics from kimchi to pa jeon (a seafood pancake) to bibimbap to, of course, a variety of bbq meats. There were also other picked veggies, an order of mandoo (basically Korean gyoza dumplings), and yuk hwae – small portion of beef tartare served on julienned apple.
Round 1 was everything but the BBQ meats and bibimbap – it was delicious and I was in serious danger of becoming full before making it to the star of the show. But we persevered and pushed through to the sound of sizzling meat on the grill where we had tiger prawns, sesame & garlic sirloin, rib galbi, and pork belly.
Here a couple of weak points showed up. First, the grill’s heat is very uneven so you need to be careful what you put where as our thin shavings of rib galbi overcooked while we were focused on making sure the pork belly was sufficiently rendered. But if you keep the thin bits on the edge then it’s the equivalent of slow cooking which doesn’t quite work either. Second, the raw vegetable selection served with the meats was cut in thick chunks and it took forever to cook them. This meant we had devoured the meat and were left with grilled veggies to eat on their own.
That being said, they are relatively minor points and by in large the BBQ was tasty. The lettuce with miso paste was crunchy and flavourful to the point I was tempted to keep eating it when all the meat was gone.
Finally, desserts are limited to a Super Snow Ball (a ball of shaved ice topped with red bean and other bits) or 3-4 ice creams (which include flavours such as black sesame and green tea). I opted for the safe option (black sesame ice cream) which was pretty damn good but I was surprised at how much I enjoyed my taste of Alex’s Super Snow Ball.
As you’d expect from any good Korean place, they have Hite (the only Korean beer I know) and plenty of soju. They also have a range of Super Sonic Cocktails which are essentially different fruit flavours with a shot of soju. We tried the lime (basically a daiquiri), raspberry (a bit medicinal for my tastes), mango (rich and fruity), and the plum (my favourite with just enough sweetness). The Super Sonic Cocktails are fairly light and two of them didn’t generate a noticeable buzz. But, then again, if you’re going to get hammered why bother with dilution – just go for the straight stuff!
Worth the dosh?
Since we dined as guests of the restaurant, it’s a bit of a theoretical question but let’s give it a shot anyway.
For £35pp, it’s definitely on the higher end of Korean BBQ. However, the beefier price does get you a pretty snazzy environment, central location, a huge variety in dishes, and some top quality food. Plus, there are the cheaper (albeit smaller) set menu options for £25 or £30 as well as a la carte. I’ve also got to point out the staff were very friendly, attentive, and didn’t have much issue understanding our American accents which was a plus.
Drinks at £6.50 a pop for the cocktails felt a tad overpriced given the limited booze content and simple make up.
Would I go back? Yes, I would given that the only other place I like for Korean BBQ so far is Cah-Chi down in Earlsfield which is a bit of a trek. It’s a bit too expensive for a regular haunt, but for a catching up with a friend it worked a charm.