11 September 2011

craving for some Korean: Sarangbang Cafe

***Sarangbang Cafe is no longer operational. Another Korean restaurant is in its place, but I'm not sure if it's a different restaurant or if they just changed the name of the restaurant.***

Last Sunday was the worst day of my week. A lot of issues started coming out that I didn't want to stay home the whole day. I didn't even feel like eating there so I decided to ask Gus if he was free after our milk tea session with Mr. Neighbor (Gus's neighbor/friend) that night.

The original plan was to go out and have milk tea with Mr. Neighbor (Bruce), and head home so I can treat(?)/eat out with my family. But just before heading out for milk tea, grr happened. Bottomline is, Gus said yes, and took me out that night.

I wanted some Korean food that night, not just because of the kimchi, but because I had a sudden craving for grilled meat. I decided to eat at Ye Dang but when we got there, it was already closed. Gus was very sweet and understanding. He drove us around Ortigas Complex, checking to see if the other Korean restaurants we know, were still open. We saw two, which were still open but Gus knew I wanted to try the grilled meat so he said we should and will check out the other Korean restaurant I knew, which had grills for the meat. After scouring the area, ending up in closed restaurants, we decided to give one of the open Korean restaurants across Ye Dang, a try. The second one served mainly modern, Filipino/Western cuisine with a hint of Korean cuisine, so it was a no-no for us. We ended up in the other Korean restaurant that served ONLY Korean food. Sarangbang Cafe.

Since I already knew what I wanted to try, ordering was fast for us. Apart from the grilled meat, which thankfully, they had, I also wanted to try this soup with rice dish that I kept on seeing on the dramas I watch. We also got one serving of bibimbap to share.

As with all Korean restaurants, they served us these great tasting appetizers while we waited. It wasn't as many as the previous restaurants we've been to that served around eight appetizers, but it was still delicious. We had five appetizers to taste while waiting for the main course: kimchi, radish kimchi, pickled garlic, regular salad with thousand island dressing, and spinach salad. The salad stood out since it wasn't a common side dish I'd see in other Korean restaurants I've been to, but, it was still good. It helped neutralize all the spiciness in the other dishes we ordered.

Appetizers (L-R: spinach salad, radish kimchi, 
pickled garlic, garden salad, cabbage kimchi)

For the grilled meat part, Gus decided to order samgyeupsal. It was the first to arrive on our table next to the side dishes since, duh, we had to grill it ourselves. If you want to experience grilling your own meat, there is a minimum of two (2) orders. Otherwise, they would cook the meat in the kitchen. But hey, their samgyeupsal was inexpensive. One order only cost us P199. This whole order was only P398, and we still weren't able to finish the whole thing!

P398 (P199/serving)

The Grill

Gus liked it, thankfully. He said it had its own flavor, which was true. From what I know, samgyeupsal is unseasoned so the flavor we were tasting was the actual flavor of the pork. I had fun grilling and cutting the meat, while Gus enjoyed eating it, Hahaha. It's been ages since I last had a bite of samgyeupsal so I can't really compare this one to anything I've had in the past. All I can say is that, it was good. And judging from Gus' reaction, I'll say it was really good. :) The only downside to it was that it didn't come with the leaves, garlic, and spices that usually go with it. Grilled Korean meat dishes are usually eaten like a wrap. You put the grilled meat piece on top of a leaf (usually mint leaves or lettuce), add a clove of grilled garlic, some spices, and then you wrap it and chomp! Their samgyeupsal came with chives (I think they were chives) only. No leaves or spices. You had to but the leaves separately for P50.

Samgyeupsal on the grill!

Sides for the grilled pork belly

The next dish to arrive was the soup with rice. I forgot to take pictures of the menu so all I can remember is that I ordered soup with rice. All the soup dishes came with a bowl of rice, which, if I understood correctly, you place in the hot bowl of soup and mix.

Kimchi Soup

It was actually better than I expected. I really didn't know what to expect since the name only says Kimchi soup, so that's what I had in mind. Kimchi-based soup with rice and vegetables. I didn't think there were meat pieces in it. I thought it would just be plain old soup with some vegetables. The soup was flavorful, not just some plain tasting broth, and it was loaded with lots of vegetables and.. Meat pieces! It was also good enough for two, to share

The last dish, and last one to arrive, was the dolsot bibimbap. It was big enough to share too, unless you're really, really, really hungry, and you don't have any appetizers to fill you up while waiting. :D It was okay, not saying it didn't taste good, but I prefer Korea Garden's bibimbap better. Their bibimbap tasted just like any beef rice topping. Hot rice + vegetables on top + beef strips. It is enjoyable but if you have preconceived notions of how a particular dish is supposed to taste like, you might or might not like what you get.

 Dolsot Bibimbap

We had no problems with the service, though it wasn't as fantastic as our previous eat outs. The attendants were quick to respond but I don't think they were trained to be enthusiastic or bubbly or welcoming. It really felt like eating in one of those Korean places you see on Korean dramas. They're polite enough to take your order and give it to you, but that's it. No hi, no hello. Just business. They get your order, come back after a few minutes to put the dishes on your table, then just leave. It wasn't bad service, it just wasn't good. 

All in all, it was a pretty good and filling dinner. We even had to bring home some of the samgyeupsal and bibimbap because we were already too full. If you're looking for an authentic Korean dining experience, Sarangbang Cafe is one of the few choices you can try. Just don't compare the taste with others you've tried before WHILE you're eating. You might not be able to enjoy the food's potential if you put your expectations first. :)

Price Range: P200-300/person

3.5 out of 5 for Sarangbang Cafe

Sarangbang Cafe
U-201 Millenium Place Bldg.
Meralco Ave. Ortigas, Metro Manila, Philippines
Phone Number: (63 2) 632-9714

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