Holy Smoke opened on Saturday, and as always I was one of the first through its doors. Although the close proximity of my house to the restaurant probably had something to do with it! I was just desperate to find out if all the banging in the early morning was worth it.
Despite the mother Mary logo and the godly like name, the interior is dark and slightly satanic. Some cows are certainly getting slaughtered up in here to serve at the altar of deliciousness. With the glowing red lights they have a real juxtaposition of good and evil going on. Maybe it’s supposed to represent the glowing coals upon which the meat is cooked, but I really couldn’t say for sure.
Hot on the tail of Linus’s success, some might say this is a copycat restaurant as the menu is somewhat similar. However there’s room for more than one BBQ restaurant in Seoul. In fact there are thousands of them. Koreans love BBQ meat so I’m surprised the American style trend didn’t catch on sooner.
I got a few sandwiches to go on opening weekend, and finally ate in last night. They have been running out later in the evening so I would advise going early to avoid disappointment. The menu offers a good selection of BBQ foods without having too much. We ordered the pulled pork sandwich (6,000), with fries on the side (2,000). There is generous amount of meat served in a soft buttery roll. The meat is unsauced, allowing you to add your own. They have three available, Franks (a BBQ styled thousand island kind of sauce), Carolina Gold (a mustard laced vinaigrette), and Red hot chili. I find the Franks to pair best with the pulled pork, and with the coleslaw piled in on top this is a damn good sandwich for the price. The meat is tender and juicy but could possibly do with just a touch more flavour within it. Without the sauce it would be a bit bland though.
We also got the rib platter (16,000). On the menu it said three ribs but we got five which was handy as otherwise my poor and long suffering boyfriend would have been left with just one. The meat on the bones was tender and well cooked, but they were just too plain on their own. The sauces that they currently offer completely overpower the flavour of the meat, so they need to serve some regular BBQ sauce. That or perhaps a dry rub before they are cooked. I’m not really into plain old ribs, they are missing that sticky crispy crust that you get when you cook them in sauce. I asked the owner if he planned to serve BBQ sauce but was met with a resounding no. He was rather stand offish when I tried to talk to him. It was a soft opening and I thought these things are usually done so they can receive feedback, especially from your neighbours who are most likely to become regulars if treated well. The two counter staff were incredibly friendly though. I enjoyed the beans from this platter a lot, I just can never get enough baked beans in my life. The small rolls were a bit stale though, if they aren’t fresh they should at least toast them. If they get some BBQ sauce on the menu then I would have the platter again.
I got the brisket sandwich to go (8,000). Again the meat was tender but unflavored, the mustard sauce definitely goes better on this one. I think if pushed though I probably think the pulled pork sandwich has the edge, it’s also cheaper.
Between Sunday and last night they changed the fries. At the weekend they had the larger ones below, but last night they had the shoe string ones you get everywhere. Bring back the big chips and I’ll order double sides, the skinny ones I’m really not fussed about.
Later in the evening I was in the mood for something sweet, so The Fat Boyfriend was dispatched across the road to pick me up the deep fried Snickers (6,000). This is for the very sweet toothed. It was just too sweet for me, I liked the crisp exterior on the outside, but the middle is supposed to be soft and gooey but the peanuts in the Snickers opposed this. It works much better with a Mars bar. I think I’ll try the lemon berry curd next time.
I didn’t have anything to drink as they only serve craft beer. They have a couple of homemade sodas which look great but at 7,000 with no booze in them I had to decline. Maybe after pay day. This place has the making to be a great spot as the portions are large and good value. But they need to make a few changes to get to the same standard as Linus in the taste department. I would definitely continue to get the sandwiches to go either way, but the platters need more work to get me back inside.
Holy Smoke is located at 1F, Sinheung-ro, 3-gil, Yongsan-gu, seoul. To get there take a train to Noksapyeong station (line 6) and come out of exit 2. walk straight until the road veers off and you see the kimchi pots. Walk along this road until you reach the turning just before bonny’s pizza and go left. Holy smoke is located on the left hand side just after HBC coffee shop. For more information you can call on 02-792-3719.