I’ve known Chef Ryan Phillips for a while. We met during our regular guest gigs at Arirang Radio. He is Culinary Arts Professor at Suwon Food and Tourism College. His Instagram account (ryan_wesley_phillips) is droolworthy. One of his great passions is his little farm in Yongin, Bear Foot Gardens, where he grows chilis to make into Hanjeulgi Single Stalk Hot Sauce. He builds BBQ smokers.
Also, he’s a native Texan.
American BBQ has exploded in South Korea, starting with Linus showing how Alabamians do it. We’ve had others using “Texas” in their name, but I am willing to bank no native Texans are making this Q. I’ve been waiting for Chef Ryan to get his chance to open a restaurant, and the stars have aligned.
Full disclosure–As you may have already guessed, I’m biased. I know how good Chef Ryan is, so I’m not going in cold. On top of that, my frequent cooking partner in my pop-ups and at McPherson’s BBQ, Simon Lee, is on the Ryan Smokehouse team. Two amazing chefs. American manager and CIA graduate Riley J. Boston and British sausage master Dai Billington round out these BBQ Avengers.
The girls and I ventured an hour-and-a-half from Gimpo to Jamsil for their soft opening. They’re in the heart of the fun area of Jamsil. I used to go out there frequently when Wine Korea’s Joshua Hall lived in the area. Their concept and design show promise. The second floor is the restaurant. The first floor acts more like a take-out deli and lunch counter. It’s a good place to enjoy a few nice beers and some smoked snacks.
The smoker is right at the window, with the meat resting right in front. Vacuum sealed smoked meats inhabit the display cooler.
Upstairs is an open balcony and further back more of a man cave. Country music pipes in, but not the annoying country. Down home classics mixed with some Kenny Rogers.
We tried as much of the menu as we could. I’ll tell you right off that we committed the sin of not getting around to their brisket.
This is where the power team comes in. The head staff and investors are well connected, and they have a mission: to support locally sourced food from small producers. Their signature is their meat, humanely raised and imbued with Omega-3. Happier healthier livestock results in healthier tastier food.
We went for the Big Boy Platter, which included pulled pork, half a chicken, and Ryan’s signature pork belly ribs. I know, I had to try that. They’re like pork belly lollipops.
Of course, the meat was as tender as butter in a sauna. It’s not overpowered with seasoning. They’re letting the meat speak for itself. Mesquite and hickory smoked. There’s only one sauce, and only one is needed. One sauce to rule them all. I hope Ryan bottles that along with his hot sauces. I was disappointed to not see any bottles of that famous hot sauce, but maybe that’ll be available in the future.
The yeast rolls are his grandma’s recipe. They up the game for BBQ restaurants in Korea. Rich with a glowing sheen. I could just eat these with sauce and be happy.
The slaw is purple and reminds me a lot of a mild sauerkraut. The pickles are boldly sour in a town that likes them on the sweet side.
The beans are more like ham beans, not Boston baked beans.
The potato salad is buttery, though thorough interrogation revealed no butter was used. Instead, the potatoes themselves were smoked for a couple of hours before realizing their life’s goal of becoming a rich potato salad.
Two sides stood out.
Corn fritters. So far, that’s the closest we’ve gotten to hush puppies in Korea. The reason hush puppies are hard to do is that it’s difficult to get the right grind of cornmeal. These corn fritters are light and stuffed with corn, and I barely got to try but one because Jian ate all the rest.
Brunswick Stew. It’s back! That unique little BBQ pork and vegetable stew has new life at Ryan’s, now with the inclusion of okra. The girls devoured that. In fact, Jain continued to eat the stew while eating her dessert.
They currently have two sausages. One is a jalapeno and cheese. The other one is “Dragon’s Breath.” It’s a tad on the spicy side. Slap them on a roll with that sauerkrauty coleslaw.
We tried two desserts. The Peach Cobbler comes out hot with a scoop of rustic homemade ice cream. There’s something about a homemade ice cream, with little crispy ice crystals, that makes every day the 4th of July.
The other dessert we tried was Bread Pudding, also served hot with a dollop of that lovely ice cream. It’s a breadier (not as mushy) bread pudding that almost tastes like a hot gooey cinnamon roll.
We ate so much that–I’m honest–I was full for 12 hours.
For beverages, they have iced tea for W3,000. <— great deal!
It’s unsweetened, but they have black sugar syrup available.
They also have fresh squeezed lemonade and a good list of quality craft beers.
Overall, it’s the next evolution in Korea’s growing American BBQ scene. It’s run by folks who truly know what they’re doing. I hope they continue creating great dishes. And I really hope they open a little store closer to my ‘hood.
Until then, I have an excuse to go to Jamsil.
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