Korean cuisine… it’s either you love it, or you haven’t encountered any place that serves noteworthy Korean food that instantly makes you fall in love with.
I’ve never had an extreme liking for Korean food in my last 24 years of living. In fact, I used to blithely assume Korean food is all about fermented vegetables, which were somewhat revolting to me.
Korean BBQ is becoming increasingly popular in Singapore. Now, the focus is on the meats.
Kimchi does play a key role in completing a Korean dining experience, but there’s so much more to Korean cuisine than just pickled cabbage. I am growing to appreciate kimchi more each day, but Korean BBQ is still what entices me the most. A liking for Korean food is emerging; irresistible establishments like BORNGA make this possible.
BORNGA is Korea’s leading chain of BBQ restaurants, established in 2002, with an empire of 33 branches in Korea and 13 outlets worldwide at present. It is the brainchild of Jong Won Paik, one of Korea’s most successful and renowned celebrity chefs. The opening of BORNGA at The Star Vista in November 2012 marks the chain’s first appearance in Singapore.
The airy brown-hued dining room provides a great deal of space between each table; it has a seating capacity of 74 indoors and 52 outdoors.
There are three types of sauces available to accompany the BBQ meats: a simple dip comprising sesame oil, salt and pepper; Korean soya bean paste sauce; and Woo Samgyup sauce.
Woo Samgyup (thinly sliced US beef shortplate with BORNGA’s special sauce; $22)
At BORNGA, the Woo Samgyup is a must-have. It is Chef Paik’s patented recipe, of thinly sliced US beef doused in BORNGA’s secret sauce. The sauce is light and savoury with fruity undertones. The sauce is poured over the meat upon order, as a means to retain the meat’s natural vibrant colour, while enhancing the essence of traditional ‘bulbogi’. The addition of minced garlic, sprinkled atop, provides ample aroma.
They call this the ‘beef equivalent of pork belly’ due to its resemblance. This piece of meat, sliced ever so thinly, sure owes its juicy succulence to the layer of fat. *Drools*
A long platter of Ssamcheban (assorted vegetables) is served complimentary on every table to accompany the BBQ meats. The generous portion of vegetables can be a tad intimidating to non-veggie lovers like myself. I didn’t think I was going to touch any of the greens at all.
The greens were then put to good utilisation once our meats were cooked.
The grilled product is marvellous eaten on its own, but to eat it Woo Samgyup-style, roll it with some shredded leeks, dip it in the Woo Samgyup sauce and wrap it in lettuce.
Whether you eat it on its own, or spare a little more effort in creating your own wrap, you’re bound to enjoy it. I sure enjoyed both ways. Bring it on, veggies!
Ggot Sal (non-marinated prime cut Australian beef boneless ribs; $38)
The Ggot Sal prides itself on its even marbling and premium quality. The meat, imported from Australia, is non-marinated so as to allow its natural flavour to shine.
No oil or grease is needed for the grill. Char them till your desired doneness; it won’t take very long.
Chadol Duenjang Jjigae ($16)
If you’re missing a bibimbap, why not take on an adventurous option and order the Chadol Duenjang Jjigae. It is essentially a traditional Korean soybean paste stew with beef and vegetables, presented to you at a tableside service.
Once the stew starts bubbling, let it reduce to desired consistency before ladling over plump white rice.
Once you’ve gotten the ingredients in your bowl, don’t forget to add more of that robust sauce. You want to coat every single grain of rice with all that intense flavour.
Mix everything all up like how you would with Bibimbap.
Haemul Pajeon ($22)
For me, comfort food comes in a form of pancake; the Haemul Pajeon is a Korean pancake made from scallions and a variety of seafood. It is a little bland on its own, but dip it in the accompanying sauce, and flavour is immediately heightened.
Tteokgalbi (ground rib meat patty mixed with a soy sauce seasoning then grilled; $20)
Have you come across such a large meat patty in Singapore? Its circumference is larger than the size of my face. While its size fascinates me, I didn’t find this dish to be particularly memorable. Besides, patties always go better with some form of carbohydrates.
BORNGA Naeng Myun (buckwheat noodles with cold broth; $15)
Beat the heat with an icy bowl of BORNGA Naeng Myun. Buckwheat noodles are served in an iced beef broth, topped with fresh crunchy slivers of pear, slices of cucumber, tender beef, and crowned with a hard-boiled egg.
The texture of the noodles is slightly gelatinous and chewy but still firm to the bite –pretty outlandish, but it kinds of grows on me. Served alongside is a condiment of pure pungent mustard. You have an option of having the noodles and broth as it is, or add mustard for a wasabi-like kick.
Omija (complimentary dessert served to all diners)
To end the meal, BORNGA delivers complimentary dessert for all diners –the Omija. It is a five-flavoured tea that’s refreshing and light on the stomach. It somewhat reminds me of haw flakes (made from Hawthorn).
While the menu isn’t extensive, the quality of food makes up for the lack of variety.
#02– 24, The Star Vista
1 Vista Exchange Green
Reservations: (65) 6694 4696
Operating hours: 11:30am to 10pm daily