At Korê Steakhouse, each table is outfitted with an inlaid grill that gives you the freedom, and the weighty responsibility, to play chef for a night. Are you up for it?
I hope so. Because the restaurant, which opened in Waterside Place earlier this year, is one of Sarasota’s best.
When I arrive, servers deliver a complimentary variety of banchan—traditional Korean side dishes like pickled onions and radishes, egg salad and kimchi. You can dive right in, or save them to accompany your main dish. At Korê, there are no rules, except to take your time and enjoy yourself.
For first-time Korê diners like me, the staff explain the process of Korean barbecue, offering recommendations on how to cook with your grill. They care for you sans tips, providing excellent service with no expectation of a return. Some diners may sneak a few extra dollars onto the table upon leaving, but it’s not necessary, since a service fee is built into the pricing model. The menu offers à la carte options, as well as a prix fixe menu, with a wide sampling of various meats and side dishes.
The “Butcher’s Pride” prix fixe ($95 for two) features a fried shrimp appetizer, two side items (cheese corn—rich and salty corn-off-the-cob bursting with cheese—and a green onion salad), a generous selection of beef and pork for you to prepare and a light dessert of mixed berries and whipped cream. The servers bring raw meat, one item at a time, with a pair of scissors for you to cut the meat into bite-sized pieces before placing them on the grill. The room is outfitted with a state-of-the-art ventilation system that pulls the air from around the grill underground and circulates new air into the dining room, preventing a build-up of smoke and odors as you cook.
The meat offerings in the “Butchers Pride” include prime meats like New York strip, ribeye, pork collar and galbi (marinated short ribs). The ribeye is intensely marbled, which makes for a rich, buttery bite that melts as it hits your palate. The pork collar brings a gaminess that I’m not prepared for and don’t love, while the galbi, marinated in soy, sugar and aromatics, outshines the rest with well-balanced umami and sweetness. When I return (and I’ll definitely return), I’ll skip the prix fixe and head straight for the galbi and ribeye.
The menu features other items besides those prepared at the table. They are labeled “For Sharing” and include japchae (stir-fried sweet potato noodles, $15), bone marrow ($12) and dolsot bibimbap ($17), among other options.
Although you won’t be preparing the bibimbap yourself, it comes highly recommended. The server delivers it in a piping-hot stone bowl that toasts the rice from below, giving it a crispiness that is a textural revelation. Then the server mixes everything—beef, a fried egg, vegetables and rice—so that each bite contains a bit of each ingredient. I enjoy it while my meat cooks on the grill, and somehow it stays hot throughout the entire meal.
Korê’s cozy booths are ideal for an intimate date night, but larger tables accommodate several guests, because Korean barbecue is best enjoyed with plenty of friends. The interactive experience is fun and sparks conversation, and the restaurant would even be a great place to bring kids, so they can play with their food by helping prepare it.
As my eyes wander around the room, I am struck by how much fun everyone is having. Laughter abounds as people clumsily cut up their meat with scissors. I can’t wait to bring friends, family and anyone who loves a great time.
Korê Steakhouse | 1561 Lakefront Drive, #111, Sarasota, (941) 928-5673, koresteakhouse.com