[Cooking? Cooking!] Why Sarang Korean Bistro is XOXO
I feel the sensation; I feel it at once.
I’ll take you in one mouthful like cheese.
I take in your scent, scrutinise your color
I’ll eat you up with more refine than drinking wine
EXO’s latest hit Wolf might possibly contain the most bizarre (but we admit, strangely catchy) lyrics in K-Pop history, but if these few lines in which resident rappers Chanyeol and Kris drop rhymes about gourmet cuisine were any indication of actual food trends…
Guess what? They were actually right.
Gone are the days when Korean food lovers in Singapore had to settle for noisy, smoke-filled barbeque restaurants when trying to satisfy their Korean food cravings. Situated on the seventh floor of Orchard Central, Sarang Korean Bistro is the first Korean bistro in Singapore to offer an eclectic, modern take on classic Korean cuisine and drinks. Spending a lazy afternoon with your girlfriends or unwinding on a Friday night in a Korean food joint is now possible with Sarang’s brand new menu, which features an extensive selection of Korean-inspired drinks, tapas, mains and desserts.
KAvenyou was invited to a media tasting session last Friday night, and we now present you the lowdown on what we think are the must-haves, and as leader Kris puts it, the “maybe-next-times”, in the new Sarang menu.
1) Kimchi Pancake (김치전, or kimchi-jeon)
The kimchi pancake, a staple in every self-respecting Korean sool-jib (restaurants and bars specializing in alcohol and the related accompanying dishes), is a deceptively simple dish. While mainly consisting of just two ingredients: flour and kimchi, it takes expertise and experience to perfect the ultimate kimchi-jeon; a light, fluffy pancake fried to crisp perfection.
Sarang’s tapas take on this dish manages to do all of these, plus more. The pancake was fried to crispy perfection, while at the same time retaining a doughy, moist centre. The humble kimchi-jeon was also given a glamorous upgrade, with the addition of fat, juicy prawns, and an irresistible accompanying special sauce that added a lemony zest to the dish. In all honesty, the pancake itself was so good; we could have eaten it plain with no complaints.
2) Okonomiyaki-style Scallion Pancake
You’ve read it right; our second must-have recommendation is a Japanese, not Korean, inspired dish. Head Chef Jung Yun Yur, better known as Chef YY, enjoys borrowing elements from Japanese and Western cuisines and incorporating them into classic Korean recipes, and boy, are we glad he does, because this fusion concoction is exquisite.
This pancake can be considered as an upgrade of its traditional Japanese counterpart in several ways. One point we loved about this dish was the fact that in comparison to the impossibly dense okonomiyaki, Chef YY’s version of this Japanese favourite eliminates the flour for a lighter dough base, making for a less heavy alternative to the carbohydrate-laden traditional dish. Less is always more, especially in this case since we fully intend to order everything on the menu. Another frivolous reason why we couldn’t stop taking photos of this dish when it was served – The pancake has a scalloped edge! So high fashion!
3) Spoon Pizza
Imagine the savoury goodness of everyone’s favourite guilty pleasures, mash potatoes and pizza, in a single bite. Now rejoice, because what you are imagining now in fact exists, in the very, very delectable form of the Spoon Pizza.
Word has it that the Spoon Pizza was born after Chef YY observed that health-conscious female diners often ate the pizza toppings while leaving behind the dough base and crust. Replacing dough with mash potatoes, the Spoon Pizza is a delicious marriage of new and old, topped with a bed of melted mozzarella and a generous serving of spicy chicken chunks. Like its name suggests, the pizza should be eaten with a spoon. Guys who love their pizza but don’t want to embarrass themselves with messy table manners on a first date, you know which dish to order.
1) Sarang Meat Lover’s Platter
If we could, we would rename ourselves as Lovers of Sarang Meat Lover’s Platter. From the quintessential samgyeopsal (fatty bacon strips) to the bistro’s signature Sarang Steak, the latter a flame-grilled US Choice ribeye steak served with kimchi cream sauce, this hotplate of tender, grilled, meaty flawlessness was quite undoubtedly the star of the show. Please allow us to let the following photos do the talking as we sit in a corner and cry as we reminisce the perfection that was this dish…
1) Soju Bomb (소맥, or somaek)
If South Korea’s love affair with alcohol were to bear any actual fruit, then the soju bomb would undoubtedly be the lovechild of this national obsession with all things alcohol. We like to describe the Korean and English names of this popular Korean drink as cause-and-effect – the Korean term Somaek is a portmanteau of soju and somaek (Korean for beer), and the English term pretty much describes what happens after repeated servings of this quietly lethal drink: Complete K.O. Every Korean has his or her own golden proportions for the ultimate somaek mix. The consensus appears to be 7:3 (70% beer and 30% soju), but you know what? We’ll just go with whatever Sarang’s proportions for this concoction are, because their version was, quite frankly, the bomb.
2) Makgeolli Sprite (막사, or maksa)
For the unaware, makgeolli is a rice wine native to South Korea. Originally popular with farmers, the drink gained new popularity with females because of its mellow, sweeter undertones. The Makgeolli Sprite combines makgeolli with Sprite, making for a palatable, sweet cocktail drink. Before you order that second cup of the Makgeolli Sprite though, be warned that overdosing on makgeolli is infamous for causing the most vicious sort of hangover the following day. Drink with caution! Or be like us, and throw caution to the wind and order three other different types of cocktails. #yolo
3) Lemon Soju
In all honesty, all of the drinks we had during the tasting session were great, but the lemon soju stood out simply because… it was cute. It came in a very Instagram-worthy shot glass, so that made us very happy. And oh, it was very delicious too.
After all these yummy food you’d thought that we would be too stuffed for desserts. Nope, just like how Koreans have a different liver for alcohol we have a different stomach for dessert. Bring it on.
The hotteok, a warm pancake with a cinnamon centre, was the cherry on top of the cake to end off our night of feasting and merrymaking. Served with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, the hotteok was sweet (but not cloyingly so) and homely. We’ll be back for more!
1) Cucumber Soda
The cucumber soda was served before all the appetisers and cocktails, and we suppose it was palate cleansing and prepped us for the slew of amazing food to come, but would we order it on our next trip to the bistro? Well… sorry chef, maybe next time.
2) BBBB (Big Bang Bulgogi Burger)
It is with great sadness that we’re categorising this burger under the Maybe-next-times, because hello? Big Bang Bulgogi Burger? B to the I to the bang bang Bulgogi Burger?! The name for this dish is all kinds of amazing and catchy as hell, but unfortunately the burger itself did not really pass our taste test. Maybe our standards were set too high because of its extremely clever name, or maybe the next main, the awesome Sarang Meat Lover’s Platter, completely overshadowed this dish, but somehow this burger did not pack the punch that we were expecting it to deliver. With a name like Big Bang we were expecting to be knocked out after the very first bite, but unfortunately it left us feeling blue. Brownie points if you spot the (lousy attempts at) song references.
Other dishes we tried last Friday night:
Folded Egg (계란마리, or gyeran-mari)
Spicy Chewy Rice Cake (떡볶이, or tteokboki)
Ginseng Chicken Terrine
Crispy Tofu with Kimchi Cream Sauce
Makgeolli Mojito (paired with modern tapas)
Kiwi Soju and Red Wine (paired with mains)
181 Orchard Road, #07-01 Orchard Central, Singapore, Singapore 238896
Sunday to Thursday: 1200 – 2200
Friday and Saturday: 1200 – 2300