Seoul BBQ is an unexpected take on traditional Korean barbecue

When I first walked into Seoul BBQ, 2080 South Havana Street, an Aurora spot owned by veteran Korean restaurateurs James and Lily Kwon, I was expecting to dine in a restaurant that, like so many traditional spots from that country, put as much emphasis on the novelty of the culture's dining rituals as it did on the food.

So I was expecting to start with banchan, complimentary side dishes ranging from very normal crispy scallion omelettes to very strange, vaguely nutty gelatinous cubes of totori muk (acorn jelly topped with vinegar and sesame seeds).

I was expecting the entrees to include bubbling hotpots of broth in which you could cook seafood and meat, and expecting a searing hot grill on which I could lay strips of pork and beef. I was anticipating a feast that was as much about digging in and playing with food as it was about eating. And I was expecting my meal to end like a typical Korean barbecue feast, with sweet rice sikhye -- a light, refreshing drink that cleanses the palate and indulges the sweet tooth.

But while elements of that ritual prevailed, my dining experience at Seoul BBQ deviated dramatically from most Korean feasts I'd experience before -- and while parts were familiar, much as completely unexpected. Find out what was different when the review is posted here tomorrow, along with a slide show of more photos.

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