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Everything You Need to Know About Ulsan

Gracias, Brazilian Tragedy

I’ve been lucky to hit up a lot of good restaurants doing reviews for this site.  Sadly, to quote Q, all good things must come to an end.  I have seen the dark side and I hope to save all of you from it.


A while back I had heard there was a Brazilian steakhouse in Ulsan.  Wonder of wonders!  Brazilian steakhouses are magical places and the idea that I could go to one here, well, I was intrigued.  The food gods intervened, however; it was difficult to get together anyone to get out there, and for months it languished, steak haunting the back of my mind.  But the opportunity finally arose, so out I went with a dozen friends.


The joint is right on the Ilsan Beach waterfront, a fifth floor restaurant called Gracias.  Here are a couple pictures.



These were supplied by Jason Teale, who also gave me a bunch more that I’m not going to include.  Jason is a great photographer and makes this restaurant look appealing.  Therefore, I don’t want to include these pictures and fool anyone into thinking that maybe I’m being harsh, it doesn’t look so bad.  You’re right.  It doesn’t look so bad.  If you were on a balcony outside, watching the food through the window, you might be forgiven for thinking this is a good restaurant.  It is not.  I come to bury Gracias, not to praise it.

The meal started with a good omen, as I ordered a Guinness draft and they brought a bottle.  The bottle did say draft on the side but this really was not what I had in mind when I saw Guinness draft on the drinks menu and chose it.  To be fair, they spelled draft as something like “brougfht” so perhaps the fault was my own.

The first course was a tiny steak, which ranged around the table from well done to nicely rare.  Everyone’s was different and they never asked how we wanted it cooked.  My neighbor’s managed to be well done at one end and rare at the other, which is quite a feat since the steak was of a fairly even thickness.

I should mention now that we were basically the only people in the restaurant.  There were two other tables of two people, ours had a dozen.  The service was terrible the entire evening.  Only one server it seemed, who wasn’t exactly on point with the orders.  We were never asked how we wanted our meat cooked, which to me is the absolute bare minimum level of service at a steakhouse.  We also had a Korean in the group, so it wasn’t a language issue.  The servers were largely mute, like the Moai of Easter Island, empty gazes at us as we attempted to do the unthinkable of asking for stuff.  Usually they did what was requested, but there was no way to know until 20 minutes later when the dude brought out the Cass you forgot you had wanted.  If it had been a busy night that’s one thing, but the place was a ghost town.

Anyway.  The first steak was the highlight of the evening, as it was palatable.  We ordered some more later, and shouted rare at the waiter numerous times in utter desperation.  He never acknowledged it, but the later steaks did come out rare so that was fine.  Had the meal ended there it wouldn’t have been so bad.

The second course was flank steak, which had been cooked into beef jerky except without any flavor.  Well done is too kind a term for the piece of meat I got.  Some of the others got ones that were more reasonably prepared, but mine was garbage.

Next we got some pork belly that had been barbecued.  This was cooked okay, the end pieces were nicely seared and the fat melted in your mouth.  Had they used any sort of seasoning it might’ve been decent, but it lacked even salt.

Similarly, the chicken that came next was acceptable, but again, no seasoning.  And I mean nothing.  Cooking without salt is about the dumbest cooking mistake I can think of and this was the moment where I began to be in awe of how bad this place was.  It’s the most fundamental thing.  Even any decent dessert has a pinch of salt for flavor enhancement, and for barbecued meat to have no salt.  It’s unreal.

After that we were served sausages.  These sausages were sweet and had corn inside them.  It was like Korea vomited all over my mouth (on the way out I noticed they were listed as Korean made on the menu).  These were easily the worst sausages I’ve ever had, and there were piles of them left over.  Nobody could stand them.  There was even some sort of beef wrapped in bacon that was utterly inedible.

The last course was some dried out turd of a piece of meat with something on top that was supposed to be garlic but didn’t taste like garlic and I don’t even know anymore.  Even the dessert was crap.  It was roasted pineapple like is usual in a Brazilian joint, but they didn’t sear it and were stingy as all hell with the cinnamon, each slice had a tiny dusting at one end and that was it.  We all paid 30K for the privelige of having our tongues harassed, plus the drinks.

They also had various side dishes on a counter by the door but god who even cares.  There were terrible spring rolls and fries that had been sitting out since the Joseon dynasty and some rice and beans that looked like they’d just been dumped out of a can without even cooking.

If you want Brazilian steak for the love of god, go to Mercado in Haeundae or Gangnam.  One of the best places I’ve ever eaten.  Do not go to Gracias.  If you are eating out in Dong-gu go to White House or something, anywhere but here.  Absolutely the worst non-Korean restaurant I’ve been to in Ulsan (disclaimer: I have never gone to other terrible places like Outback, Bennigan’s, or TGIF).  Everyone in the group agreed it sucked, so while mine is the only opinion that should ever matter on all things food, I have broad based support in my hatred of this place.