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Hanwoo expert uses skills to source prime beef for his restaurant

Beef straight from auction house to grill at Samjung Hanu Pub

By 이우영

Published : April 15, 2016 - 15:00

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Samjung Hanu Pub CEO Han Deok-woo takes his beef very seriously, doing everything from sourcing it straight from the auction house to grilling it tableside for hungry customers.

“Since I bring in the beef myself, I can check, taste and look at all the cuts, and decide which ones are optimal for eating that day,” said Han, 34, on how sourcing the beef directly enables him to keep track of his beef, from the minute it arrives at the restaurant to how it is aged or served up uber-fresh. 
Samjung Hanu Pub sources its beef, like the wet-aged 1++ grade Hanwoo striploin (chae-kkeut) pictured here, directly from the auction house before grilling it tableside over hardwood charcoal. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) Samjung Hanu Pub sources its beef, like the wet-aged 1++ grade Hanwoo striploin (chae-kkeut) pictured here, directly from the auction house before grilling it tableside over hardwood charcoal. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

Han first started out as the guy who sources beef for other businesses, waking up early and trekking out to the auction house daily to select good quality beef.  

“I felt confident about the beef I selected, so I wanted to do it myself,” said Han, explaining how sourcing beef for other businesses gave him impetus to jump into the Hanwoo restaurant business.

Han plays to his strengths at Samjung Hanu Pub, which opened late March in Sinsa-dong, Seoul, near Garosugil, sourcing beef for his 22-seat restaurant directly from the auction house.

Han says he only goes for top-rated 1++ grade Hanwoo beef, stressing that Hanwoo does not simply refer to beef from all cattle raised in Korea but to beef from a specific breed called Hanwoo, otherwise known as Bos taurus coreanae.

When it comes to Hanwoo, Han is very specific about what he looks for.

“I personally like the meat to be almost transparent red in color,” he said.

After selecting his beef, Han then wet-ages cuts like sirloin and tenderloin to help break down the muscle’s connective tissue for a softer texture, while selling “special” cuts – which tend to be gleaned from or near the innards of the cow – fresh, because, Han says, these cuts spoil more quickly and are not ideal for aging.
Samjung Hanu Pub opened in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul, in late March. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald) Samjung Hanu Pub opened in Sinsa-dong, southern Seoul, in late March. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)

By being involved in the process from beginning to end, Han is able to make the dining experience a breeze for customers.

All one needs to do is ask Han which cuts to order, and he will immediately recommend cuts that are optimal for consumption that day.

To clarify his definition of prime, Han breaks his thinking process down, explaining how for instance, one night, the chae-kkeut cut (striploin) was in excellent condition, boasting Han’s ideal pattern of thin yet dense marbling throughout, a solid 17 days into its wet-aging process.

Once recommendations are made and cuts ordered, Han grills beef tableside on a hardwood charcoal grill, searing both sides to seal in juices, then searing every corner and edge to ensure the juices remain intact when he cuts the beef into succulent, bite-sized morsels.

When each piece is ready to eat, he carefully arranges cubes of beef sporting crisp outer crusts around the rim of the grill.

Part of the fun in eating at a spot like Samjung Hanu Pub is in tasting various cuts, from melt-in-your-mouth buttery thick-cut bites of striploin to nutty and rich thin-cut morsels of chuck flap tail (salchisal).

Diners can pair their beef with B.Y.O.B. beer, wine, makgeolli, sake or liquor, all corkage-free, says Han.

In late April, Han also plans to open the terrace adjacent to the restaurant where draft beer and skewers will be served.



Samjung Hanu Pub
   505-7 Sinsa-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul
   (02) 517-9223
   Open 6 p.m. to midnight daily, closed Sundays
   Reservations recommended

Wet-aged beef costs 33,000 won to 36,000 won for 150 grams, “special” beef cuts cost 38,000 won to 45,000 won for 150 grams, additional “special” beef menu items cost 38,000 won to 42,000 won for 150 grams

By Jean Oh (oh_jean@heraldcorp.com)