Tako Korean BBQ
3030 T St., Sacramento
If anyone can get barbecue lovers to step out of their comfort zones, it's Yoon Hee Cho.
She's co-owner of Tako Korean BBQ, the 800- square-foot new hot spot on the edge of midtown with a hybrid menu that combines Korean and Mexican cuisines to excellent effect. You wind up with tasty and exotic dishes like a bulgogi burrito loaded with delicious marinated beef or kimchi quesadillas featuring fermented Napa cabbage. The food has found devoted fans.
Before Tako, Cho and business partner Alex Wan ran the well-respected but underachieving Yunice 61 in Rancho Cordova. Some patrons couldn't get their heads around the idea of Koreans doing American-style barbecue; the restaurant never really took off.
But whether it's Korean style or American, Cho really knows her barbecue.
The Bee asked about her take on meat and fire that's both traditional and progressive.
What would you serve at your perfect barbecue?
Usually my culture in Korea, when you barbecue together, you do short ribs and rice. I marinate everything the day before I barbecue. For side dishes, we usually do kimchi (a traditional Korean dish featuring spicy fermented vegetables); we also do any other kind of side dish, like barbecue corn on the cob.
How would you prepare the meat?
For the short ribs, I buy them at the Korean grocery market. We have two different kinds of short ribs thin slices and thick. For barbecuing outside, I usually get thin slices. If I get thick, I usually have to trim it. I usually shop at Smile Food Market (2948 Bradshaw Road, Sacramento). I call ahead and order, and they will pre-cut it for me. They also have good sticky rice.
What's the most unconventional item you like to grill?
Sometimes we like to do noodles the Korean style noodles called japchae. It's a very popular Korean dish. It's noodles made with sweet potatoes. You boil them, then prepare the other ingredients like sliced carrots, onions, egg, garlic and mushrooms.
Do you prefer a charcoal or gas grill?
I like charcoal. It has more flavor, especially charcoal made with wood. It's a little bit harder to control, but the fire is stronger.
What's the biggest difference between barbecuing in Korea and barbecuing in the United States?
Here, barbecuing is mostly outside, and I didn't do that until I came here. When I was young in Korea, at the time, most of the places didn't do that.
When do you use direct and indirect heat?
When I cook meat, I use the higher temperature. For indirect heat, I do things like beef brisket, which cooks overnight for 12 to 13 hours. At Tako, we do braised pork that cooks for 10 hours.
At your barbecue, what would you serve as beverages or cocktails?
Mostly beer. Korean people drink beer. I don't drink. I prefer a light beer for the family. Sometimes we make a fruit cocktail that is non- alcohol. When I was young and we had a party, my mom made sikhye (a traditional sweet rice drink).
What's your must-have grill tool?
I use tongs. It's easy to hold the meat.
What's your secret for throwing a successful barbecue?
Probably to get the temperature right.
Call The Bee's Blair Anthony Robertson, (916) 321-1099. Follow him on Twitter @Blarob.