Posted in Foodie, Review

Korean food!

It’s Saturday!* So let’s whip up weekend-appropriate topic — where and what to eat. I know it’s Saturday night already, but you can use this as an idea for tomorrow. It’s not too late… 😉 I love weekends because my family tends to eat out at fancier eateries on these two days-off days. A reason to splurge on food! Besides, I have a growing list of eateries I’ve been meaning to review but haven’t found matching time and mood to do so. Which means, there’s high possibility that (an)other eatery post(s) would be up sooner than later, so stay tune if that interests you.

First off, lemme start with a certain delicacy I’ve been wanting to savor but cannot justify the price list… until recently. Not because the price has gone down — like it will ever happen to anything — but because I snagged a deal. I’m talking ’bout Korean food.

Several years ago, I was wondering why the capital wasn’t flooded with Korean restaurants given the boom of K-drama/-pop, especially after 2009’s Boys Over Flower frenzy. J-dorama/-pop doesn’t seem to have corresponding following here, but Japanese restaurants are everywhere. I myself was intrigued and fascinated by the lavish spread shown in 2003’s Dae Jang-geum (Jewel in the Palace) as it’s aired on local TV in 2005…

Anyway, while K-wave craze is still going strong, more Korean BBQ restaurants begin grilling its meat in town. Alas, the fact that they have become more readily available and within reach doesn’t mean the cost would be less damaging. I’ve long been aware that the price is up there – the more familiar Han Gang outlet tagged 65K for bibimbap and above 100K for BBQ item a couple years ago; now?

For someone who labels spending beyond 250K for 4 persons as super expensive, Korean food seems way out of budget… until I came across this coupon deal online. Good thing about these tantalizing deals is you get to buy something you mayn’t otherwise ‘afford’; bad thing is you buy something you mayn’t otherwise spend your money on. Oh, what an irony. It feeds on one’s impulse and is purchased mostly on whim because they’re such a steal you won’t pass ‘em up. Right, right, right??

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[sorry, this was taken from the car as it was raining]

I’ve mentioned that I most likely splurge on F&B, plus it’s Korean food whose outlet is located within manageable distance from home, plus it’s a 45-50% off kind of deal… there goes my money. This time we headed to the South, to Jln Wolter Monginsidi, allegedly the strip of go-to Korean restaurants, and pulled over at Woori Jung Korean BBQ Restaurant located near the end of the one-way road. Stood across it are Tobak and Bornga. We arrived to a nearly empty dining hall at 6:30pm and left at full house with few waiting list one-half hours later. It isn’t big of a space, mostly due to the way it’s partitioned. There are three private rooms and two ‘separate’ common areas. An opaque glass is placed in-between tables, enhancing privacy but is also somewhat impractical; it blocks view and gets in the way when you’re trying to get the staff attention (no, the service call button on the table proved to be ineffective).

I read good mentions of its service – or Korean restaurant’s service in general – but that’s not what we received. It feels as if their job is done the moment all orders are served on the table. They might have many other patrons to tend to, including the Koreans sitting inside the private rooms, they might be understaffed (it’s weekend; shouldn’t they prepare more manpower to accommodate all guests?), but that kind of service doesn’t justify the 6.5% charge added to the bill. The same goes to any other eatery charging the ‘standard’ 5% (or above) service charge. Based on personal experience, the better service is provided by those without service charge, and we are always more than willing to tip more than 5% of the total bill for such instances rather than forced to foot comparative amount for undeserving ones.

‘nuf with the verbosity, let’s get down to the goody~~ Hold your horses! Before that, I gotta make a honorary mention of again, its price, which is astronomical. It’s not that I wasn’t aware of that. In fact, I conducted price fishing prior to even securing the deal. Nevertheless, what I saw on the menu vs. what was stated on the reviews/the deal itself… didn’t match. It’s gone up by quite a lot actually — eg galbi-sal 240K, bulgogi 170K, samgyeopsal 120K, jap-chae 120K(!!). Guess what I’m thinking? Regardless, I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt ‘cuz I didn’t want it to taint the fervor upon coming to this place. This marked my first visit to a Korean restaurant after dining in at a place whose name and location escaped my memory in S’pore few years ago, minus those from Korean food court stalls.

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We didn’t spend much time drooling over the menu, which is entirely written in Korean with pictures and Romanized readings, without English or Indonesian translation whatsoever; we’d pretty much decided what we gonna order beforehand. There are so many dishes I wanted to try, but of course it’s impossible to order all in one go – mind your stomach and wallet! We thus ordered some meat, soup, and rice cakes (I think nobody ordered this but us) – and had to pass up the oh-so-popular bibimbap amongst other drool-worthy selections.

They say Korean restaurants serve free side dishes (banchan) and tea. That’s what got served first upon placing our orders. The varieties aren’t that many, but are so many they’re enough of a distraction till the main dishes are ready. I like the taste of the most of them, especially the tangy-slightly-spicy kimchi, the sweet-glazed lotus (yeongeun jorim) and baby potato (gamja jorim), and the salad-like cold vegetables; the pancake-shaped paste (jeon) is warm but a bit bland for my liking. Alas, no dried/stir-fried anchovy (myulchi bokkeum) =( Its tea has distinct bitter, roasted taste to it – me likey!

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[ddeokbokki 80K, dongtae jjigae 80K | look at them! don’t they make your mouth water?]

The traditional street food ddeokbokki comes out shortly afterwards, followed by bulgogi (you know what this is, don’t you?) and lastly dongtae jjigae (pollack stew). I am a sucker for spicy food – red excites me – so the sight of hot-red colored ddeokbokki and jjigae is enough to make my mouth water. Slurp! The former is piping hot (it’s served on a hotplate, what do I expect!?) but isn’t as spicy as anticipated; the rice cakes is firmer and not as chewy as anticipated either. What I like best from the latter is the thin, spicy, kimchi-like broth. ‘nuf said. It isn’t really flavorful, but I can’t stop spooning for more.

Appearance-wise, bulgogi is the biggest letdown. Served on a white cold flat plate instead of the anticipated hot pot as pictured here, it ends up looking a lot like yakiniku with sweet taste. Included in the mix are glass noodles and enoki mushrooms. Loved it. And although we ordered no BBQ, I went ahead and enjoy it the Korean-style: placed the thinly sliced bulgogi in the center of provided raw leaf, topped it with chili sauce and one peeled garlic clove, wrap everything up and stuff ’em to my mouth . It tastes even better, I must say.

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[bulgogi 170K | the plate is biiig]

Talking ‘bout BBQ, not every table is equipped with smoke hose and griller (there’s just not enough space!) so the raw meat would be grilled for you but not before you? I saw staff and a (Korean?) lady tending the grillers encircling a table at the back corner in front of the kitchen. If that’s the case, the treat of watching the meat sizzle – that sound, smell, and slight haze – is pretty much gone.

All in all, I finally get to experience savoring an exquisite food spread, whose taste satiates my crave for ‘authentic’ Korean food. It was a hearty though not an exceedingly scrumptious meal. That said, I have barely any other place to compare it to, so I’ll end this post with: my tastebuds danced in joy and I left with a happy tummy. I slept so soundly that night ^^

Are you Korean food lovers? What’s your favorite tasty but not so costly Korean restaurant in town? Do share!

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*) Whoops! Meant to post this yesterday night but it took me longer than expected to wrap this up. My bad~

Perused reviews: bubyhungry and urukyu (both in Indonesian)

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I blog sometimes, gush ofttimes, snark all the time.

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