By Daniel Gray
Lee Min-Hyuk, owner of Mercado Brazilian Steak House believes in authenticity. Having lived in Brazil in 3 years, he has done his best to bring the true churrasco experience to Seoul. In order to properly recreate this experience, he has even brought Brazilian chefs to Korea to create a festive atmosphere with plentiful amounts of meat. Here, the meat is the meal and the show.
While you are seated, you will see an assortment of sides and sauces. There are pickles, salsas, buttery rice, mash potatoes, and a salad. These are there in case, you get tired of eating plate after plate of freshly charcoaled meat. The one side you might ask for seconds on is their red, spicy pimenta sauce. Made with red peppers, garlic, vinegar and whatever else, this sauce was the perfect accent to the garrisons of meat that came forth.
The meal starts when you see large a Brazilian man brandishing meat that has been run through with a large sword. He’ll come over to your table and ask if you would like some delicious Australian beef rump tips. These are exquisite because the sizzling fat leaves a sheen of lip-smacking grease over the juicy meat. After you enjoying this, the man will return again to slice juicy sirloin with rosy dollops of blood. He’ll keep coming to your table with all manner of beasts: beef ribs, beef with garlic, beef wrapped with bacon, the best roasted chicken drumsticks in Korea and even chicken hearts. Here the meat is the centerpiece of the meal and you can eat until you burst (and it is something that they encourage with sadistic generosity).
White-hot charcoal makes animals delicious. The veal is soft, plush and tender like a baby (pun intended); the steak wrapped in fire roasted bacon is awe-inspiring; the chicken hearts were like meat M&M’s; and the garlic meat was mmm…mmm…good.
Mercado has a limited wine selection, but that doesn’t mean it is bad. Their wines are reasonably priced with Sangria priced at 35,000 a pitcher and Archangel Shiraz priced at 65,000 won. True to form, there isn’t a white wine on the menu (it’s a churrascaria after all).
When I asked Min-Hyuk if he ever stopped anyone from eating too much meat he said plainly, “No, there is only so much meat a person can eat.” You can indicate you’ve had your fill by turning over the red or green colored totem- this is the only thing that will stop the meat brandishing men from visiting your table.
Looking around the busy restaurant, I noticed it had a very diverse crowd. Within earshot, I could hear people speaking in English, French, Korean and German. I wondered how Mr. Lee had created a restaurant with us such a diverse clientele. He said, “My philosophy is that we want to give everyone the perfect experience. It’s very international here because we want people to come here to enjoy themselves. Come here and have your meat and your wine, we welcome it. We don’t even open for lunch, because we want to concentrate on dinner.”
I wish more restaurateurs would follow his vision- we would more quality places to go eat at.
3-Stars out of 4
Nonhyeon-dong 95-16 Yeongjin Building 2nd Floor (Across the street from Apgujeong Cinecity)
Open Monday-Friday 4:30-10:30pm Saturday, Sunday 4pm to 10:30pm
Price: 29,000 all you can eat per person