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The NewSLU

Review: Korean barbecue takes diners on “journey of taste and refinement”

Sweet-and-savory aromas fill Yakiniku Rikyu, in the Salamanca district, as patrons grill meat and vegetables at their tables.
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  • Grills to barbecue meat are set into the tables at Yakiniku Rikyu in the Salamanca neighborhood.

  • Vegetables and meat for grilling Korean style at Yakiniku Rikyu in the Salamanca neighborhood.

Vegetables and meat for grilling Korean style at Yakiniku Rikyu in the Salamanca neighborhood. (Chloe Nascimbeni)

A Michelin-listed Korean barbecue restaurant in Madrid’s wealthy Salamanca area, Yakiniku Rikyu, takes visitors on a unique journey of taste and refinement. From the carefully planned surroundings to the appealing smells, every sensory aspect added to an experience that went beyond traditional dining. The interior was minimalistic luxury. The soft, ambient lighting created an intimate environment. Traditional Korean booths, which required patrons to take off their shoes, lined the walls. Each table had its own sleek grilling station, which gave off a warm glow while glossy meats were cooked to perfection. The stylishly-dressed patrons at opposite ends of the tables engaged in the art of grilling, keeping their focus sharp as they watched over sizzling, marbled meat.

On a recent night, a large booth was occupied by a family with two small children who were carefully guided through the grilling process by their parents. The children’s wide eyes and cheerful smiles brought an element of innocence to the sophisticated setting. Nearby, a couple in their mid-30s sat at a corner table, well dressed for the occasion. They talked passionately, occasionally clinking glasses as they shared laughter and warm eye contact.

Throughout the restaurant, an appealing aroma of marinated meats spread from the grills. The sweet-and-savory mix combined with the smokey flavors to create a tempting scent that lingered in the air while the vegetables and fermented sauces emitted earthy and spicy aromas. As customers leaned in close, their eyes were stuck on the grill. Their hands carefully controlled the tongs and chopsticks as they precisely turned and flipped the meat. A team of waitstaff in clean, black uniforms served the diners with kindness. Their movements were soft, as they anticipated customers’ demands by replenishing condiments and replacing grill utensils. They worked with quiet gracefulness, making sure that the needs of the guests were handled without disrupting the mood. The restaurant vibrated with a pleasant flow of conversation, providing an enjoyable background to the sizzling noises of meat on barbecues. As clients participated in the dinner ritual, plates and cutlery clinked gently. The waitstaff’s subtle dialogue was precise and hushed, resulting in an excellent dining experience.  The view of sizzling meat on the grill was an amusing sight of colors and smoke, each piece charring to perfection under the customers’ mindful supervision. The flow of talk, accompanied by satisfied and thankful smiles, reflected the guests’ delight.

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