Chow Down In Milwaukee

Restaurant Reviews

Char'd - A sizzling Restaurant

Over in the historic Third Ward of Milwaukee, you’ll find Char’d, located at 222 E Erie Street. Char’d is a newer, modern restaurant that serves intricate and authentic Korean cuisine.

The atmosphere is sophisticated with a blue and gold theme. The cloth napkins and water glasses were blue, while the silverware and chopsticks were gold. There are also spots with green succulent foliage and a few pictures of succulents as well. The classy lighting fit the theme and wasn’t too bright or too dim.

Char’d serves many of their dishes on hot lava stones to ensure that the last bite is as hot and fresh as the first. The restaurant features local ingredients, many coming from a Korean market about an hour away. They also take pride in using seasonal products. So in summer there may be more cold noodle dishes and kimchi served; whereas, in the winter, they may lean toward offering hot noodle dishes and more soups.

After graduating from the Johnson and Whales University, the executive chef, Yosub Yoon, interned at the acclaimed Hilton Conrad Hotel in Seoul, South Korea, where he polished his skills and knowledge of Korean cuisine.

After talking with Yosub, he told me that the most popular side item is the KFC (Korean Fried Chicken) wings ($12). When I got the order of wings, I was astonished at how big they were; these wings have a chuck full of meat on them. In the order, you get six wings - three drum sticks and three flat wings that are fried to perfection. The coating isn’t thick at all but gave the wings a  crisp outer that is softened by the superb sauce they are tossed in. The sweet-spicy garlic sauce was more sweet than spicy. It reminded me of what would be a sweet Korean bbq sauce without the smoky flavor. The chicken itself is tender and falls right off the bone - very delicate for being a wing. I was impressed.

Sticking with authenticity, Char’d offers a dish called Bulgogi, a traditional dish served in many Korean restaurants. Like in Korea, the beef Bulgogi ($23) is served with large lettuce leaves, rice and ssam sauce. The finely sliced, almost shaved, beef was piled high and mixed with grilled snap peas, mushrooms, scallions and carrots. When brought to my table, I could see the meat sizzling on the lava stone and the steam coming from the freshly cooked pile of deliciousness.

I liked the fact that you can make your own lettuce wrap – a very interactive experience. The ssam sauce was my absolute favorite part of this meal. It tied everything together. The combination of the hot beef and the light, refreshing lettuce is great but the sauce is what pulled it into a unison form. It’s a great pairing with beef but honestly, I would put this sauce on any type of meat, including chicken and pork – it’s that good. Ssam can be considered a tangy Korean chili sauce. It has a slight grainy and thick texture but was still smooth and subtle.

While the beef can be eaten alone, I would definitely recommend this dish to people who like to build their own meal and for people who like beef, because you get a lot of it. If you don’t get this meal, ask for the ssam sauce on the side for the dish you do get – just so you can try it. It’s a must.

The other dish I tried also stuck with traditional Korean roots – the Bibimbap ($15).  This Korean dish is served over a bed of rice, with mixed vegetables, beef and a sunny side up egg. In Char’ds case, you have the choice of either beef or mushroom for a vegetarian option. The mushroom option was great; a fantastic way to get all your vegetables and still have a hearty meal.

When I was served, chef Yosub suggested I mix it all up. Doing so, it made for a great mash of fantastically fresh ingredients. The vegetables included are carrots, bean sprouts, zucchini, edamame, picked radish and red cabbage. The finely shredded carrots give girth to the dish, along with the sautéed zucchini. The egg white was to perfection, no crispy or burnt edges and the yolk was still runny and enjoyable.

The national dish of Korea is Kimchi, mainly because it’s usually served with every meal. Kimchi is fermented cabbage with other vegetables and spices, and can be made several ways. Char’d offers two vegetarian Kimchi’s based with fruit, whereas the regular Kimchi they offer is based with shrimp paste. The regular is spicy along with one of the vegitarians. The white kimchi is the less spicy one because it is not made with chili powder.

The side of Kimchi I ordered was the regular kind – because I like spice and wanted to experience the taste of true Korean cuisine. I had never had kimchi before and it was truly an experience – there is nothing like it. The kimchi was very invigorating with the coolness and freshness of the bean sprouts and fermented cabbage. You could taste the vinegar used for fermenting, but wasn’t overpowering. It was definitely tangy and the spice factor came through the red paste that the layered cabbage was topped with. It’s truly an uplifting but heated dish. I look forward to trying the White Kimchi salad, a less spicy option but just as refreshing if not possibly more.

If you are looking for a great meal, adore fresh ingredients, and appreciate the locally sourced and seasonal way, Char’d is the place for you. The elegance of the atmosphere makes your experience much more pleasing and the food is top notch, paying homage to traditional Korean cuisine.

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