I realised that I do not know much about Korean food. As far as I remember, I have only been to a Korean restaurant twice in Hong Kong – once at Chung Gye Chon at the famous Korean street in Tsim Sha Tsui, and another at iSquare for a friend’s birthday and of which I didn’t blog about. Though I have been to Seoul once, I had too few Korean meals to consider myself Seoul-out (God I love a bad pun) so, no, I conclude that I do not know much about Korean food, if at all.
Jahbchae (saute vermicelli with shredded mushrooms and vegetables).
For tonight I wanted to do something different for dinner, and the thought in getting our hands dirty with Korean BBQ seems apt. So we found ourselves at Sorabol Korean Restaurant at Lee Theater Plaza in Causeway Bay. Apparently, Sorabol is THE place to be at if you are looking for Korean food.
We arrived about half an hour early for our 8.30 p.m. reservation, and the restaurant was so busy that the front desk was unmanned. The harassed-looking captain told us that our table was not ready yet, and please would us mind coming back later? I took pity to his plight – there was a growing queue of slightly impatient patrons behind us – so the better half and I went to do some shopping instead. Which in retrospect wasn’t a good call, but hey if that’s not an excuse for shopping, what is?
Dolsot bibimbab (mixed stone pot rice).
Half an hour later, right on the dot, we were seated. Sorabol Korean Restaurant was bright, cheery and distinctive HK-like, despite the legion of waitresses in Korean costume rushing about looking harassed. The service throughout the night was efficient and prompt, in very good ways. Our BBQ grill plate was changed not once, not twice but FOUR times throughout our three-hour dinner. The better half informed me that this never happen at other places. Usually Korean BBQ places will change your grill plate at most twice, and that’s with “unlimited” BBQ meat supply. At Sorabol, we had all but TWO plates of BBQ meat. The plate-changing was a bit excessive, but much appreciated. Yes, I am aware of the peril of charred, cancer-causing meat.
What I also remember vividly from our dinner at Surabol are the waitresses. Or more accurately, the never-smiling waitresses. From their name tags I think they are from Korea and Philippines, but for the life of me I can’t see why they can’t crack a smile for their friendly patrons. How hard could it be? But don’t get me wrong – they were helpful and diligent. Just not the usually bubbly and friendly kind (or rude and impatient, depending on where your fortune lies) I am used to.
Sangchoo ssam (korean lettuce and condiments).
Now that was a really long preamble to my food writing on Surabol. Just to add on a little more to this rant before the food review, I just want to add that I looked at my first few blog posts and realised that, when I got started on food blogging I was set to write about the story of the food experience, rather than the review of the food. However for some unknown reasons, that changed overtime and I found myself reviewing food dish by dish, which is to be honest a tad boring to write, and I am sure, for you my readers, is a tad boring to read too. No? So I am going back to my original style of writing because… because I can.
Korean side dishes.
Now to the food. We ordered a set menu for two which cost some HKD500. Six different Korean side dishes were served to our table, from the usual kimchi of two vegetable variety to some strange looking, garlic-coated purple yam. The better half sang praises for the kimchi which wasn’t as spicy as it looks, much to my relief. For me, I particularly relished the vegetable side dish, of which part of it was soya bean sprout (I think that’s what it’s called). Simple, but charming.
BBQ marinated meat (boolgalbi & dweiji boolgogi) with vegetable wrappings.
The marinated meat – short ribs (boolgalbi) and marinated pork (dweiji boolgogi) – was great eaten wrapped with the accompany five (yes, five!) variety of vegetables with a dash of Korean spicy-and-sour paste. A small top-up of kimchi gives the whole ensemble a very different spin, and I would recommend that you give it a try. Though this hands-on experience of grilling and wrapping was exactly what I looked for, there was just something… missing. I think it got something to do with the sauces. But like I said in the beginning, what do I know about Korean food?
The star of the night was found, surprisingly, in a pot made of stone. The dolsot bibimbab was a delightful mixture of ingredients mixed into white rice, partially cooked in the stone pot (the dolsot) so you get some crunchy rice at the bottom and it was quite a show to see it prepared in front of you. Much shredded vegetables – mushrooms, carrots, beat sprouts, spinach and cucumbers – was mixed together with an uncooked egg, roasted pine nuts and some gochujang, the Korean red pepper paste. The result was a potful of contrasting flavour and texture that got me oooh-ing and ahhh-ing in appreciate. Now I get Korean food.
One whole pot of warm Japanese sake.
Also worth mentioning is its sake. We saw there was only one option available – Japanese sake for HKD100 – so we ordered it warm. What turned out was a whole pot of hot sake, much to the better half’s shock and to my delight. I love a good warm sake, and this lubricated our conversation for the night nicely. So much so, we ordered seconds, and between you and I, that never happened with the better half.
Verdict? No verdict this time round, because I want to start writing differently. Gotcha, didn’t I!
Sorabol Korean Restaurant
18/F, Lee Theatre Plaza,
99 Percival Street, Causeway Bay