A new Korean-influenced steakhouse is coming to—wait for it—Pioneer Square. Girin (510 Stadium Place S.) will be going into Stadium Place, right next door to Josh Henderson’s Quality Athletics, which is still on track for an early September opening.
The restaurant is the fourth one from Steve Han (Umi Sake House, Momiji and Kushibar), which makes sense that girin is one of the four divine creatures in Korean culture that marks the arrival of good luck and prosperity.
But to me, the most interesting part of this story is the chef. He has absolutely no Korean culinary experience, despite being incredibly talented in the kitchen. His name is Brandon Kirksey. You’ve likely heard of him. I met him years ago when he was the chef at Ethan Stowell’s Tavolata and watched him grow to become the opening chef at Stowell’s Rione XIII, where he stayed until moving to California last fall. Currently, you can find Kirksey at San Francisco's James Beard nominated Flour + Water, a pizza and pasta concept he's all too familiar with at this point in his career.
"I left Seattle to do the same kind of food that I was doing in Seattle,” Kirksey told me. “And now I'm coming back to do something that's crazy different. As much as I love [Italian], I don't see why there's any reason I can't go on to do something else."
And “something else” he will start doing immediately after he returns to Seattle in September.
"As far as learning the cuisine, [Han and company] have a couple of guys who know how to make Korean food very well. I’m going to work with them before Girin opens.” Han is also sending Kirksey to Korea for two weeks in early October.
Girin plans to feature ssam and panchan, seasonal bimbimbap, seafood and a strong focus on whole-animal butchery—one of Kirksey’s selling points.
"They want to do a Pacific Northwest kind of Korean restaurant, so it's not going to be straight up Korean, but they still want it to be the type of place where the Korean community will come and respect it and wont' think it’s a place where a chef is messing up their food."
"I just miss being in the culinary scene here,” says Kirksey. “I felt like when I was [in Seattle], I was pretty deep into it. I feel like Seattle has a solid crew of good chefs and San Francisco does too, but I feel like I have an important place in the Seattle restaurant community."
As far as design details go, Girin will feature a modern Korean garden inside the restaurant, a street-facing window that looks into the meat locker—similar to what you’d see in traditional butcher shops throughout Asia—and signature Korean accents, like trees, bamboo and calming natural elements.
Right now, it’s expected to open around March, 2015.
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