Did you know there is a Korean Street in Hong Kong? No? Neither did I, until earlier last week when my friends detoured from our usual haunts on Hong Island ventured to Kowloon for a spot of Korean BBQ.
The restaurant for the night was Chung Gye Chon, located at Kimberley Street at Tsim Sha Tsui. Various Korean eateries dot along this road, so you will be hard pressed for choice to dine out here. Ours was illuminated by a large orange sign so it will be hard to miss.
Even harder to miss was its crowd. We took our tickets at fifteen past 8 p.m., and by 9 p.m. we were yet being offered a table. Patience were running thin as the waiting crowd thickens with hungry stomachs and creaming toddlers in tow. Much to my dismay we found out that someone jumped the queue and got a huge table for his friends. Probably a friend to the restaurant owner or a regular big spender or both, but can you blame us when we complained loudly to the flustered wait staff manning the front door?
But once we were inside, we were immediately served with no fewer than eight mini banchans and cups of Korean tea. Of course this act was to placate our earlier outburst, and boy did they do it right. The mini appetisers were variously amazing. Of particular acclaim was its kimchi, which according to my friends was fresh and spicy to the right degree (I am always impartial to kimchi in general so I couldn’t vouch for that).
And then the shop owner herself served at our table. The Korean lady told us (in perfect Cantonse) that her wait staff are all Nepalese (hence the earlier commotion was executed entirely in English). She expertly told us what to do with our order – we had Set Meal A & B which gave us a variety of meat and cooked dishes – before leaving us to tuck in at our own pace.
As I tuck in, all my displeasure disappeared. I particularly liked this chili paste which could be too salty for some but oh how it reminded me of “ka li mut” back home in Ipoh (a type of spice space used to cook Chinese curry). Wrap your cooked meat with available fresh greens and dip in.
From chunks of seafood to giant-sized marbled meat, the selection was noticeably fresh. Then again, at the price we were paying, I wouldn’t expect any less. The set meals for a party of six – complete with pancakes, fried noodle, bibimbap, two cauldrons of seafood stew and a drink each – came to about HK$1,200.
Was it worth the price? According to my friends they had better food elsewhere. I could only agree; who am I disagree with the local experts? It’ll be worth a visit if you are in the area, or you could always try your luck with the rowdy crowd and number tickets at the many similar restaurants along the street.
Chung Gye Chon
G/F, Shop A&B
1J Kimberley St., Tsim Sha Tsui