My knowledge about anything Korean started with the movies. I am a big fan of Korean movies. They make the coolest barbaric action scenes with the most melodious background score ever. I am sure Tarantino and Mahesh Bhatt will vouch for that ;-)
What better way to increase knowledge about a region / country than to sample its cuisine, right? So this Sunday, off we went to Hae Kum Gang in Castle Street. Parking is a major problem there and we were lucky to find a place right in front of the restaurant. The only option if you don’t find a place there will be to park in Garuda Mall and walk to this place.
The restaurant is on the second floor in the building that also houses Plan B which can be yours if this place is full :-) There is no floor seating if you want the authentic Korean experience. But the place was full of Koreans (or so I think. Should go to www.japochi.com a lot more) and that meant the food was very authentic. The decoration is minimal and the atmosphere is pretty homely.
We were welcomed by smiling faces and that felt good. A 5 minute wait later, we were escorted to our table. I had some ideas about what to eat and the menu card helped me in that aspect. Normally, the menu has names like “fu qno ya” and gives no help on what the dish is. You ask the waiter or point at the menu card because you don’t want to make an ass of yourself by pronouncing it :D The menu here has nice pictures which give you a rough idea about what you can expect and the description has the vegetables and meats involved. +10 to hae Kum Gang! You still have to pronounce it though. On a side note, the waiters and manager are very helpful with the cuisine. Go ahead and ask them their recommendations.
Since it was a hot afternoon, we started with Sangria. To be honest, we were not really happy with the quantity but it looked good and it did pack a good punch and not the diluted stuff you get in other places. Each of our glasses had wine and a slice of apple, orange and lemon, served chilled.
They kept a small plate with a spoon, knife and a pair of chopsticks. Looking at the size of the plates, we wondered if this was why many Koreans were pretty petite. The chopsticks look a bit different from the Chinese ones. Not sure how, though.
The appetiser was Kimbap, a sushi like roll with rice, veggies, meat and rolled in seaweed. There were about 8 to 10 pieces. The accompanying sauce was soy with wasabi. The thing with wasabi is that it is very very pungent and quite an acquired taste for many. I love it, in small quantities, of course :-)
We weren’t told how to eat it and so we took a small bit of the sauce and wasabi, smeared it on the kimbap and ate it full. Reactions were from “Not bad at all” to “Very nice” towards the end. Recommended!
The main course was Dolsot Bibimbap (try saying that without a smile on your face). The dish came in a stone pot and had rice at the bottom, topped with veggies and choice of meat with a fried egg on top (You can specify if you want a half fry or a full fry). Our table looked a bit like the solar system as most of the Korean dishes come with its accompaniments or banchan as they call them. So we got 2 kimchis (cabbage and radish), boiled spinach, macaroni and tuna, boiled potatoes in a sticky sweet soy sauce, and kimchi soup. I didn’t like the tuna but the rest were very good esp the potatoes.
The waiter let us take one last look at the bibimbap and then expertly armed with a spoon and a pair of chopsticks, he proceeded to mix the layers so effectively that it reminded me of a massacre after an action scene. But the taste was great! Add more of the sauce if you need more gravy. The crispy sticky rice added to the taste. Do have this dish when you visit this place. Dip into the banchan for some veggies as well.
There were no desserts and so we concluded the meal with 2 cups of ginseng tea and honey. A good ending to a great meal. We had not over eaten and we felt great :-)
The bill came to 1321 (Incl of taxes) for this meal. Not bad at all for the portions.
Note: Mention Korean cuisine and people remark, “Dog food, right?” and make a long face! “How can they eat dogs? They are so cute” is the other remark! Who are we kidding? Rabbits are cute. Cows are cute. Goats are cute and they are pets as well. Chicks are cute (Not what you are thinking). We consume all of the above. But people occupy the moral high ground when it comes to dogs. Dog food was consumed in almost all regions of the World, including Switzerland, Belgium, Africa, Canada, USA (sometimes when other livestock depleted). Apparently, in Korea, the number of dog eaters is coming down. As a traveller, just respect the cuisine habits of others when you go to their places. That’s all :-)
Valet Parking: No
Reservation: A brief wait should do the trick. Not sure about reservations
Bar / Drinks: Sangria, wine and I think, Korean beer
Pure Vegetarian: Maybe the cows, pigs and the chickens they serve, were ;-)
Recommended? The food is great, the service is nice and the cost is not so much for the portions they give. Of course, I recommend it highly. Oh, and if you do not like to visit a restaurant which serves beef and pork, stay away.