Phoenix Phoodies: Takamatsu brings Korean BBQ to AZ

Takamatsu has been dishing out Korean barbecue, sushi, and noodle dishes to Arizonans for more than a decade, with restaurants in Phoenix, Tucson, Chandler and Litchfield Park. Their delicious barbecue has garnered the respect of sports stars, too, like Chan Ho Park, the pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies, whose signed jersey hangs on the wall to greet other athletes who make it a point to visit whenever they are in town.

It's easy to see what protein-starved athletes and Atkins enthusiasts love this place. Takamatsu's barbecue is a meat lovers' paradise. Piles of tender meat, like kalbi (short ribs) or bulgogi (sliced beef), wait for diners to cook them to perfection in the center table grill. Don't worry if you're a newbie -- Takamatsu's manager, John Park, and his staff are there to help and make you feel comfortable. Before long, you'll be asking to sign your own jersey for their wall.

Chow Bella: What does Takamatsu mean?
John Park: It's a big pine tree. Taka means huge, matsu means pine tree. The Korean word is gosong. The name is also the last name of our founder, Mr. Koga, and his wife.

CB: Do people ever heard 'barbecue' and think they're going to get an American-style grilled steak?
JP: (laughter) Yes, sometimes. But our barbecue, Korean barbecue, is very different than that.

CB: Can you give me an example?
JP: For Korean food, the important thing is that we use a marinade, and not a barbecue sauce. Americans, when they barbecue, like a salt rub or a sauce, and then the grill the meat. Koreans like a marinade that is a little bit salty and a little bit sweet. It's not a thick sauce, and definitely not a steak.

CB: And a lot of side dishes, too, right?
JP: Yes, it's traditional. Korean food, when you order it comes with 8 to 10 side dishes. The Korean name is banchan. Depending what you order, they might be different but usually it's things like cabbage kimchi, cucumber kimchi, radish, anchovies. Sometimes fish cake.

CB: Do you have a lot of regulars?
JP: Yes, lots of them. About 80 percent of the people who come here are our regulars. It's like a family. One of our waitresses has been here for 12 years, and she knows everyone!

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Sloane Burwell
Contact: Sloane Burwell