Charry Nights

A fu­sion theme of­fers an easy culi­nary en­try point to the Third Ward’s Korean bar and grill, Char’d.

Milwaukee Magazine - - DINING - By ANN CHRIS­TEN­SON

As other cities have dived into Korean cui­sine – one of the trendi­est in re­cent years – we’ve only tip­toed in. There’s an air of mys­tery about it that has kept it niche-y. El­e­ments are threaded into more multi-faceted Asian restau­rants and even Amer­i­can ones. Kim­chi has gone main­stream (thanks to the fer­mented health food craze), and the mixed-rice bibim­bap is very much at home in our cur­rent bowl-ob­sessed cul­ture.

Ear­lier this year, Char’d Bar & Grill opened in the Third Ward’s for­mer Hin­ter­land, and it’s less fo­cused on tra­di­tion than a broader, fu­sion type of din­ing. The own­ers of Char’d run a sis­ter restau­rant in Prov­i­dence, Rhode Is­land. When they wanted to ex­pand, gen­eral man­ager Hank Kim says, the Mid­west be­came their fo­cus specif­i­cally be­cause of its un­tapped na­ture. Char’d fur­ther dif­fer­en­ti­ates it­self with a split per­son­al­ity, op­er­at­ing as a cafe-counter-ser­vice lunch joint by day and sit-down desti­na­tion by night. It’s also put at­ten­tion into the am­biance, soft­en­ing the stark­ness of Hin­ter­land with warmer light­ing, veg­e­ta­tion (in­clud­ing moss wall pan­els) and adding a com­mu­nal din­ing ta­ble sur­rounded by ban­quettes and booths.

Some of the menu’s fu­sion adap­ta­tions work, some don’t. For ex­am­ple, the ap­pe­tizer kim­chi pou­tine ($8) is a ren­di­tion of loaded fries topped with white napa cab­bage kim­chi (spicy enough but lack­ing nu­anced fla­vor), Parme­san cheese, crème fraîche and beef bul­gogi gravy. And the Chi­nese scal­lion pan­cake ($10) is too thick and soft (though I like the seafood top­ping). At its op­ti­mal thin­ness, you have the crispy pan-fried edges and a chewy cen­ter. The KFC (Korean fried chicken) style of wings is a key ad­di­tion to the genre. They’re ($12) typ­i­cally fried twice for a crackly crust, but it’s that sweet, salty and spicy mari­nade that makes them so de­lec­ta­ble (and will make you a fan of gochu­jang chile). In many Asian cuisines, dumplings are a tried-and-true starter. Char’d does the more straight­for­ward steamed pork ones ($6), but their gummy tex­ture pales com­pared with the crispy pan-fried pork ver­sion served with tart crème fraîche ($7).

A sec­tion of the menu is de­voted to cooked meats brought to the ta­ble on hot lava stones, which keep the meat siz­zling and sul­try. The beef bul­gogi ($23) is a ter­rific ex­am­ple – crisp-ten­der grilled beef chuck, with as­sorted vegeta­bles and grilled shishito pep­pers. The bul­gogi, galbi (del­i­cate smoky-sweet beef short ribs, $32) and spicy, cumin-sea­soned chicken thighs ($23) can be eaten “ssam” style, which means wrap­ping the meat in a let­tuce leaf with rice, sauce and vegeta­bles.

An un­ex­pected re­sult of this ex­tra fo­cus at the ta­ble is a more mind­ful, un­hur­ried way of eat­ing. This is a per­fect ex­am­ple of where din­ing is less of a rou­tine and more of an ex­pe­ri­ence to sa­vor. And that is just as it should be.

“Ssam” style din­ing, left, with beef bul­gogi (bot­tom right dish), along with spicy Char’d chicken (top),Su­per Bowl (cen­ter right) and Char’d dumplings (bot­tom)PHO­TOS CHRIS KESSLER

Su­per Bowl at Char’d

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.