Woodam Korean BBQ: An Exciting New Addition of Downtown Morris Plains

0
Woodam Korean BBQ is located at 650 Speedwell Avenue, Morris Plains






MORRIS PLAINS — There is a new player in the downtown Morris Plains dining scene, and it’s certainly a winner. This past September 10th Woodam Korean BBQ opened its doors to the public with a grand opening celebration. The restaurant is located at 650 Speedwell Avenue, a few doors down from the iconic Arthur’s Tavern. The building had been dormant for the past ten years, previously the home of Cocoa Pazzo. During the past couple of years, I have had the privilege to visit a couple of outstanding Korean BBQ venues in the Parsippany area and I was anxious to check out this newest addition to what has become one of my favorite culinary treats.

My usual group of hungry epicures and I arrived at Woodam BBQ, an appealing, aesthetically pleasing colonial revival style building, in a busy, vibrant downtown neighborhood. An attractive two-story brick structure, with multiple, stylishly large, white wooden framed arched windows, decorative dental molding, ornate metal gratings, and symmetrical columns supporting an overhanging canopy. Architecturally beautiful building, and one that clearly reflects an equally impressive interior design.

Yook Ke Jang

Being the first from my group to arrive, I was warmly greeted by the smiling, pleasant, and genial David Oh, one of the co-owners of Woodam BBQ. Mr. Oh, who insisted I call him David, showed me to a comfortably situated table, sharply appointed along with the appropriate chopsticks, sealed in a paper wrapper displaying the restaurant’s name. As my group arrived a few minutes later, our personable, helpful, and friendly server, Suany, expeditiously addressed our needs. Water, menus, and wine glasses immediately appeared, and wine was uncorked. Both Mr. Oh and Suany could not have been more attentive or professional making sure we were comfortable, and any questions we had about the menu politely answered.

Patrick Minutillo

While the group perused the menu, it gave me the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the restaurant. The décor was a tasteful blending of an older, more traditional Asian ambiance mixed in with a modern, upscale vibe. The soft cream-colored walls, adorned with tasteful Asian artifacts, were offset by the hues of the soft and comfortable chocolate brown paneling, wood beam floor, and ceiling tiles. The high vaulted ceilings, with a modernistic lighted globe hanging from the rafters, are an impressive feature. The room is bright, airy, and comfortably lit by the floor-to-ceiling windows, which perfectly accentuate the rest of the dining area, which can seat 80 guests. The atmosphere is sophisticated and elegant, yet casual, comfortable, and homey. Assorted Asian artifacts, such as assorted statues of Buddha, teapots, and artwork are carefully and tastefully placed throughout the room, along with calming, live potted, and flowering plants, which are all nurtured by the restaurant staff. The meticulous attention given to even the smallest detail was evident and brilliantly done.

There is a 12-seat standalone bar at the rear of the house
Chopsticks, sealed in a paper wrapper display the restaurant’s name, Woodam Korean BBQ

Granite-topped tables, each equipped with a flaming, smokeless grill in the center, are comfortably situated around the room. The polished chocolate brown woodwork, distressed flooring, and cushioned black leather seats help ensure a comfortable and relaxing dining experience. Woodam does not possess a liquor license, and guests are welcome to BYOB; plus, there is a 12-seat standalone bar at the rear of the house, where you can sit, eat, or just relax if you prefer. Interestingly Woodam BBQ does offer wine by the bottle that you can purchase at the restaurant. New Jersey State law now allows restaurants that do not have a liquor license to partner with a New Jersey winery to serve their wines at their restaurant. So, you may still bring along your own bottle, but if you forget or prefer, wines from Villa Milagro Vineyards, a Warren County Vineyard, are available to enjoy with your meal.

David Oh, one of the co-owners of Woodam BBQ

The second floor of the two-storied restaurant offers a private party room that can accommodate 50 guests. The room provides the same polished elegance and aesthetics as downstairs. There is also an elevator available to accommodate guests who may have trouble navigating stairs, as well as restrooms available on each floor.

Our personable, helpful, and friendly server, Suany

While my friends debated over the appetizers, I took the opportunity to chat with both co-owners of Woodam BBQ, David Oh, and Chef Eleazar Martinez (aka Chef Eli). Theirs is a friendship that goes back 23 years, a friendship which brings experience and expertise to this, their newest venture, which is a combination hard to find. David Oh, who has opened about a half dozen restaurants in NYC, claims Woodam BBQ as his first venture into New Jersey. Mr. Oh explained that it was the pandemic that brought himself and Chef Eli together with a vision to open the now-renovated and reimagined Woodam BBQ. As for “Chef Eli” Martinez, he has a storied thirty-year-plus background in the culinary world. Somewhat of a celebrity Chef, he has been noted in such publications as the NY Times, Chicago Tribune, and Forbes. A Honduran native, whose resume includes working at several distinguished Michelin-rated NYC restaurants, including Jean-Georges, Daniel, Bann, and for the past decade, Executive Chef of Woo Lae Oak, in SoHo. Chef Eli’s commitment to his craft is evident, as he even spent time living in Korea to perfect the knowledge and skills that now enable him to create those authentic flavors that are true to traditional Korean cuisine, while still reflecting a modern aesthetic and sensibility. According to their website, Woodam embraces a unique and fresh approach to Korean cuisine by fusing the highest quality traditional and contemporary ingredients to their dishes, and that was obvious in the quality of the dishes we tried.

Korean Fried Chicken

We began this dining adventure with an assortment of shared appetizers. Our apps included Mandu (pan-fried, house-made, beef short rib dumplings), Pa Jun (traditional sizzling pancake, with scallion and mixed peppers), O Jing Aw Ti Kim (tempura calamari, shitake, and chayote, tossed in a sweet and soy glaze), and Korean Fried Chicken (spicy honey chili and sesame, glazed with sweet and sour pickled daikon). All the beautifully plated dishes came with perfect accompanying dipping sauces that further elevated each dish. Every app was perfectly prepared, delicious, and quickly devoured by our group as we discussed our entrée. As I have found typical in this cuisine, the balance of intense flavors and textures hit all the taste receptors; sweet, sour, tangy, umami, and spicy.

Mandu (pan-fried, house-made, beef short rib dumplings)
O Jing Aw Ti Kim (tempura calamari, shitake, and chayote, tossed in a sweet and soy glaze)

The diverse menu, included many tempting and expected Korean dishes, including several rice standards, such as Bi Bim Bap (rice topped with carrot, zucchini, spinach, beansprouts, royal fern, daikon, crisp lettuce greens, and spicy gochujang mixed sauce is always a favorite). The selection of mouth-watering traditional entrees, as well as their soups and stews, were also hard to resist, but we agreed to share the traditional Korean Barbecue selections of Kal Bi (sweet and savory boneless beef short ribs) and Sam Gyup Sal (high-quality pork belly – an immensely popular, amazingly delicious Korean dish). All the barbeque entrees come marinated in the restaurant’s signature soy, sesame, and garlic sauce, and are served with fresh lettuce wraps and miso paste, kimchi, shredded pickle daikon, namul with white or brown rice.

Korean Barbeque

The arrival of our Kal bi and Sam Gyup Sal provided us the opportunity to try out Woodam’s tabletop flaming smokeless grills. (No exhaust vents are needed here) If you have not yet tried dining at a Korean Barbeque, you are missing out on a fun and exciting communal dining experience. This is a memorable way for family and/or friends to come together and participate in the cooking and sharing of a meal. And yes, if you prefer the staff will either assist you with the cooking or do it for you. Just relax and enjoy it. With some assistance and advice from our knowledgeable server, Suany, we chose to cook our own healthy (did I mention, Korean food is extremely healthy and nutritious) meats and vegetables.

Savoring our now perfectly cooked meats and veggies, while wrapping them in accompanying crispy lettuce wraps, along with some of that miso paste, kimchi, daikon, namul, and rice, was not only delectable but a truly pleasurable way to enjoy a meal. A burst of flavor in every bite!

We closed out our meal with a nice, enticing, treat of three large scoops of ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry) placed atop an ice mold. Perfect ending to a great meal!

We closed out our meal with a nice, enticing, treat of three large scoops of ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, and
strawberry) placed atop an ice mold

My recommendation: if you have not yet stopped in at the recently opened Woodam Korean Barbeque, put it on your calendar for the next time you are looking for that special dining experience, or to celebrate that special occasion. I am confident you will have a great time and a great meal. Thank you to Woodam Korean BBQ, Chef Eli, David Oh, and their staff for the cordial hospitality.

Woodam Korean BBQ is located at 650 Speedwell Avenue, Morris Plains. (973) 330-9112. Menu: www.woodamnj.com. Dine In – Curbside Pickup – No Contact Delivery. Street Parking and Municipal Parking Lot. Elevator Availability. Closed Monday.