In the not-too-distant and possibly dystopian future, plants will be the only sustainable food to eat, so, as un-PC as it may sound, we should probably get our carnivorous freak on while the getting’s good. My favorite new place to have a self-indulgent meat fest is Sizzle Korean Barbecue, located in North Phoenix’s Desert Ridge Marketplace just a bone’s throw from its sushi-centric sister restaurant Nori. Although the menu features plenty of tasty, traditional Korean specialties cooked in the kitchen, straightforward beef and pork selections – succulent and lightly charred from quick cooking on tabletop gas grills – offer a delicious glimpse into the simple splendors of Korean barbecue.
A word to the wise: Get here early or be prepared to wait. On the weekends, this faintly upscale, wildly popular place, which rocks K-pop until its 2 a.m. closing, stays packed well past a reasonable bedtime.
Once you do snag a table, you’ll likely find it set with assorted banchan (traditional side dishes), so order a light-bodied Korean beer or low-alcohol soju (akin to Japanese shochu) and start nibbling on salads, pickled veggies, chili paste-painted chives and fluffy steamed eggs while your server/personal chef fires up the grill and starts cooking the meat you’ve selected.
The menu features a dozen different cuts of beef and nearly as many cuts of pork: prime ribeye, prime wagyu beef belly, beef tartare, soy-marinated pork short ribs, pork butt and so on. Some of them are grilled plain, others are marinated in variations of soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil and brown sugar. The fun is in ordering both beef and pork in different cuts, then comparing them by taste and texture. On two visits, my friends and I sample paper-thin slices of prime beef tongue completely devoid of spongy texture and bursting with pure beefy flavor. We also love Korea’s two most famous barbecued meat dishes: sweet, sticky slivers of prime beef called bulgogi and slightly thicker slices of sweet beef short ribs known as galbi.
The pork options prove just as exceptional. I smack my lips on the spicy premium pork butt tinged with chili heat – slightly unctuous but oh-so-good – and make quick work of pleasantly chewy premium pork jowl and Berkshire black pork belly, each nub sporting a cap of luscious fat. Oddly, steamed rice costs an extra $2, but spring for it. It’s the perfect accompaniment. All the barbecued meats are served with baked sea salt, jalapeño-spiked soy dressing and ketchup-y Korean hot sauce – each a fun but unnecessary embellishment.
If you crave the full-on Korean experience, try crispy-bottomed pouches of garlicky, pork-filled Korean dumplings (aka pot stickers) or hot stone bibimbap, a meat, rice and veggie dish topped with a fried egg and served in a blistering hot skillet that keeps the rice cooking until it’s fragrant and crunchy. Next time, I’ll skip the doughy, unexceptional seafood pancake and the fine but filling spicy paste cold noodle dish.
High-quality meat is all I really need or want here. If you feel the same, expect to drop some cash and expect to be happy you did because Sizzle sizzles.
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