Even Pandas need holidays to take a break from all that bamboo and sitting around, so I spent the last couple of weeks in Kyoto and Osaka. Japan is a foody-mecca for a reason. The way that ingredients are paid homage to, the way that traditional dishes are elevated with new twists and the way that simplicity is given complexity through the inter-play of ingredients, made my trip a revelation for my taste-buds. So, the bar was raised high for the restaurants on the 2nd foodpanda Good Food Tour. Could Hong Kong’s korean restaurants carry on where kyoto’s had left off?
Tucked away on one of my favorite food streets in Central – Hollywood Road – Seoul Bros, was our first stop of the evening on The Good Food Tour. This intimate restaurant, owned by two Seoul natives, Brian and Iggy, offered us some traditional Korean food with a modern twist. The restaurant is refreshing to the eye, comfy and has seats by the windows ideal for watching stylish fashionistas catwalking in and out of Edit. I love the modern, minimal and clean décor. My stomach was rumbling with anticipation and the sweetness and spice that hung in the air had the whole tour hungrier than Jabba the Hutt (one for all the old Star Wars fans there). Needless to say, we dug in as soon as the food baskets arrived.
Up first was their kimchi fries. Fresh-made spicy kimchi, cheese, and fries, what’s not to like? The stringy cheese melted beautifully on the hot crispy fries. I am quite fussy when it comes to fries, but I have to say, Seoul Bros’ were the perfect thickness and crispness. Sprinklings of sesame and spring onion add a layer of crunchy and fresh textures to the fries. Their homemade kimchi brought the fries to a whole new level. I officially coronate them the kings of kimchi fries.
Next up was THE CHICKEN, boneless yangnyeom chicken (fried seasoned chicken) with two sauces to choose from. The chicken was fresh, juicy and tender, and the batter thin and crispy. It was not greasy at all. Some sweet and sour sauces can be sweet and sickly, but theirs is citrusy. That said, my favorite was their sweet and spicy sauce. The spice was perfectly balanced: it won’t leave you gulping pints of milk, but might make you long for more.
The tasting rounded up with their bibimap – fried rice with homemade kimchi, sweet fresh corn, garlic butter, black sesame, and their oh-so-fluffy scrambled eggs. The combination of all ingredients worked in harmony. Their bibimap is light, fresh and healthy. The guests and I couldn’t stop raving about the scrambled eggs. Their eggs are cooked separately and layered on top of the rice, and you mix it in yourself. The separation helped control the cooking time of the egg and it stayed soft as I ate it. The added seaweed and coriander elevates the freshness and texture.
Bibimbap with toppings
Seoul Bros lived up to their slogan: It’s Honestly Good! We popped some more of their juicy fried chicken in our mouths and hopped on to the next stop.
Next up was L Place for our second stop, one of my personal favorites, JANG. JANG offers a rustic, intimate ambiance. Part of the reason why I love both korean cuisine and JANG is their small cold vegetable appetizers which start off a meal. The appetizers included their signature kimchi, spicy tofu and lotus roots, a must-try. The lotus roots are crunchy, sweet and fresh. The elegant simplicity shows how much respect and attention their chefs pay to the food ingredients.
Our main courses prompted much wowing and oohing. Fresh raw korean crab sashimi, rice balls with seaweed, korean sweet and sour fried chicken, beef BBQ set and a korean hot pot. I started with their seasonal raw fresh crab. It was fresh and I could really taste the ocean. This pairs well with their rice balls. Coming back from Japan where I indulged in many kinds of onigiri, I was delighted to find such delicate and perfectly made rice balls in HK . They are fluffy, juicy and surprisingly fresh with a hint of citrus in the rice. I had to stop myself from reaching for another one, or else I would be too full to carry on with the next course.
Seasonal, fresh raw korean crab
Suddenly chef approached the table, turned on the gas stoves, and presented us with a plate full of bright raw beef. The cut was perfect. Chef explained there are three kinds of US prime beef available in the bbq set; prime boneless ribs, short ribs, and prime short ribs. He carefully tested the temperature of the plate to see if it was hot enough and placed the beef onto the iron plate and it was soon sizzling like Paris (the city, not the Hilton). The beef was cooked right, seasoned right, and tender. Flawless.
JANG’s BBQ Beef Set
Simple food is often the hardest to get right. JANG did just that with all the food we sampled. I have already penciled in my next visit to JANG since I will need my o-nigiri and barbequed beef fix soon.
Floating on good food (and a teeny bit of Soju) we drifted onto Wellington Street, where our next and final stop of the evening was: TaKorea. Located in the hidden basement which once was a british teahouse, TaKorea has transformed this cozy little place into a perfect space for a night out with friends, traditional hotpot and drinks – Korean style. The restaurant is run two korean natives; Jake jokingly and enthusiastically gave a quick guide to Korean drinking culture, while AhYoung prepped our sampling meal. Mixing and matching all kinds of soju bombs and milky kisses (Milkis), we played a round of the flip-the-bottle-cap, and warmed up for the evening’s grand finale at TaKorea.
A mix of drinks at TaKorea
Incoming was their taco with pork, taco with eggplants, korean pork burrito and chicken burrito. I was surprised to see tacos and burritos on the menu but it makes perfect sense – what better way to carry the rich, powerful flavours of korean food? (or is that the soju talking?) Their tacos with eggplants are divine. The eggplants taste slightly grilled and maintain a fresh texture. The chef really honored the simplistic sweetness of the eggplants and made it the highlight of the dish.
Eggplant taco at TaKorea
The pork burrito is something I could eat on any day of the week for lunch and dinner. The pork was tender, flavorful, with crisp lettuce, kimchi fried rice and their homemade secret sauce.
Tender tasty pork burrito
A minute or two later, Jack brought out the signature dduk (rhymes with luck) Pot, a korean hot pot, which consisted of a mix of fish cakes, sausages, cabbages, noodles in a spicy kimchi broth. Their broth is homemade with no msg while their kimchi is fresh made in-house with pepper powder and shrimp paste, along with other ingredients they source from korean farms. As the broth bubbled up, we all dug in with our chopsticks and sampled the marriage of ingredients. Everyone was quiet and focused on digging into their dduk pot. The silence was the perfect proof of how good it is.
Bubbling spicy kimchi broth (dduk pot)
Takorea’s dduk ends with rice. This might sound bland, but there is nothing bland about how they prepare it. Using the remaining sauce from the hotpot, AhYoung prepares a table-side fried rice that mingles all of the favor and goodness into a final platter. The flattened rice absorbs the sauce and is crispy at the bottom. The end result? It was a bowl of crispy fried rice with all the goodness in the dduk pot absorbed into it! What a perfect way to end a hot pot with nothing going to waste.
Fried rice with dduk pot broth
Having enjoyed satisfying korean food and a convivial atmosphere with lots of laughter, I fell in love with TaKorea and their spirit of letting loose and having a great time while dining out. This is definitely a place to bring your friends for a perfect homey hang-out.
Sadly our tour was coming to end once again. We all stood warm in the cold and praised how much fun and great food we had had. We might have felt the cold on our hands, but our stomachs were gratified by the authentic Seoul food we had sampled.
Address: UG/F, 66 Hollywood Road, Central, HK
You can also place your order now here.
See map below for direction:
Address: 18/F, The L. Place, 139 Queen’s Road Central, Hong Kong
You can also try their lunch sets here.
See map below for direction:
Address: Basement, 55 Wellington street, Central, Hong Kong
You can order their tasty wraps now here.
- Hannah from www.afoodieworld.com
- Josiah NG from www.timeout.com.hk
- Sullivan from www.womguide.com
- Michelle from thisgirlabroad.com
- Megan from @megchills
- Simran from www.sassyhongkong.com
Cover page image courtesy of seandix.com