▲ Outback Steakhouse serves prime steaks. Photo courtesy Outback Steakhouse
As much as I enjoy sampling Korean dishes and experimenting with new tastes, there are times I crave more familiar food, in essence comfort food. For me, with roast lamb not being an option on Jeju Island (or at least not one I’ve yet discovered), a prime steak will always fit the bill. And when it’s a reliable cut of beef you’re after, you can’t go past the Outback Steakhouse chain, which opened a 220-seat restaurant on Jeju Island in February 2009.
For those who don’t know, despite the name the Outback franchise is an American chain, not Australian, and I’ve known Australians who’ve boycotted it for this reason. Having lived in the sunburned country myself, I know better than to equate pictures of wallabies and wombats and faux-Aboriginal paintings with the southern continent, and my stomach doesn’t care about such distinctions.
Managing partner Lynn Park said there had been a demand to open an Outback on Jeju Island, with people constantly asking why there wasn’t a branch here. She and manager Husky Lim said that all Outback restaurants in Korea have the same menu, although my colleague Darryl and I noticed some differences to the North American menu items. Where the Jeju restaurant becomes essentially local, however, is in the community initiatives Park has instigated. Since June 2009, she has taught groups of Jeju housewives how to cook Western-style food, and one wall has photos of the about 400 women who have thus far taken part.
The restaurant also hosts kindergarten field trips, teaching them about Australia (I’m not sure how my Ocker friends would feel about that) and nutrition, and teaches wine appreciation to university students and business people. These programs have helped the outlet become part of the local community, which accounts for about 90 percent of its clientele as its location in Nohyeongdong is off the usual tourist track.
All of which we found interesting, but after a day spent following golfers around the course at the Ballantine’s Championship, Darryl and I were ravenous and wanted to eat. The menu is extensive enough to please most diners, although, not surprisingly for a steakhouse, there are no vegetarian main choices, with even the salads and pastas including meat or seafood. (Park said the kitchen would happily prepare a vegetarian salad or pasta with Alfredo sauce and mushrooms.)
Darryl was disappointed to find that the Bloomin’ Onion, a signature Outback dish, was not on the menu but was told it had not been very popular in Korea. Instead, at Lim’s recommendation, we shared an order of Gold Coast Coconut Shrimp as an “Aussie-tizer.” This was preceded by another of Outback’s best-known items - the bushman’s bread. This dark loaf was as good as I remembered from previous visits to the chain but the butter served with it has changed since I last visited a Korean Outback, probably about three years ago. Then, diners had a choice of either whipped or honey butter, but these days, in keeping with the local preference for sweetness, only flavored butter was available, in either raspberry or mango. Both were too sweet for our Western palates but are, we were told, much loved by Koreans. The shrimps were delicious, particularly with the marmalade sauce, although both items were also a little sweet.
For mains, I went West with a 280 gram Rockhampton ribeye, medium rare and moist and tender, while Darryl chose the Korean-style Kakadu short ribs. Both were as advertised - the steak a hearty choice, simply seasoned and seared, while the ribs had been marinated in a sweetish galbi-style sauce. Both dishes came with a choice of soup or salad (we ordered one of each to share) and a choice of sides (two with the steak and one with the ribs). The sides themselves are another option for non-meat eaters, with coconut onion rings, steamed vegetables, jacket potato, jacket sweet potato, fried or steamed rice or chips on offer.
As seems appropriate in light of the wine classes Jeju Outback hosts, beverage recommendations are offered alongside the steak selections and appear well-matched. The menu also offers tempting desserts but neither of us had room for anything after all that grilled meat. Mains, especially steaks, are not cheap but, when one considers the cost of an average cut of prime ribeye in Korean supermarkets (and how easily an unskilled cook can ruin it), are not overly extravagant either.
I know where I’ll go the next time I need a taste of a farther away home.
ⓒ Jeju Weekly 2009 (http://www.jejuweekly.com)
All materials on this site are protected under the Korean Copyright Law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published without the prior consent of Jeju Weekly.
Mail to email@example.com | Phone: +82-64-724-7776 Fax: +82-64-724-7796
#503, 36-1, Seogwang-ro, Jeju-si, Jeju-do, Korea, 63148
Registration Number: Jeju Da 01093 | Date of Registration: November 20, 2008 | Publisher: Hee Tak Ko | Youth policy: Hee Tak Ko
Copyright ⓒ 2009 All materials on this site are protected under the Korean Copyright Law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published
without the prior consent of jeju weekly.com.