The rapid rise of popular Korean TV and K-pop has quickly build up our interest of everything Korean, including its colorful cuisine. As a cuisine with dishes showcasing the depth in flavor profiles and a colorful display of preserved vegetables in each meal, Korean is ever so popular here in Hong Kong, from the barbecue to the Korean hot-pot dishes. With signatures such as short ribs and ginseng soup with chicken, it is easy to think that Korean cuisine is a repertoire with little movement forward. This time around, WOM is introducing two restaurants, BBQ Brothers and JANG, both exuding its newness in each its own way.
JANG, a new Korean restaurant recently opened at L Place in Central. The name, JANG (pronounced "ZHANG") refers to sauces and condiments used in Korean cooking. With many varieties of condiments used in Korean cooking, bean paste and chili paste are among some of the most widely used. The restaurant takes its name after the quintessence of Korean cooking, reminds us of the significance of condiments as well as the owners' efforts to locate and import products from some of the oldest condiment-makers in Korea. JANG takes up a large space, the entire floor, with one side occupied by VIP rooms and a brightly-lit bar on one side, while the other side are tables that overlook the kitchen where all the kitchen magic takes place.
Adopting a Western approach to Korean cuisine, JANG is nowhere near the term "Fusion", as dishes are made the traditional way with traditional ingredients but only presented with Western concepts and ways of presentation. Such is the case for "King Prawn and Jellyfish Salad with Korean Mustard Dressing", an appetizer salad consisting of a stack of jellyfish tossed together with fine juliennes of cucumber and nashi pears. The addition of crab meat and king prawns at the top help building up the briny tastes in the salad. One who enjoys crunches and textures will like this salad, with cucumbers, pears and jellyfish all contributing on their own crispiness. The dressing is a simple vinaigrette made with Korean mustard, rice vinegar and pear juice, bringing forth a sweet-tangy dressing with just a hint of sharpness from the mustard.
The "Barbecue Beef Brisket with Spicy Korean Salad" is one of many signature mains at JANG. The chef takes beef brisket for its well marbled meat. After shaving it into gossamer slices and seasoned lightly, the beef is flashed fried and served with a mélange of greens mildly seasoned with Korean chili powder. The dish is best served with warm slices of beef wrapping the seasoned greens, the combination of hot and cold, followed by tender beef wrapping crisp greens, is fresh and simple all on its own.
Considered one of many Korean signature dishes, "Bo ssam" at JANG resembled most to the original version. Served with the mild salad from the above beef brisket dish, one should not missed the pickled radish at the centre of dish. Radish is cut into thick sticks and preserved in the same manner of preserving kimchi. The unique seasoning penetrates into the radish sticks, exuding a fresh and sharp aroma of vinegar and chilies.
The pork belly in the Bo ssam is the cooked in a broth seasoned with onions and ginger, and sliced upon chilling. Served with a basket of fresh lettuce, one should wrap a slice of pork belly, several sticks of crunchy preserved radish with the lettuce and take it in bite by bite, each one combining all the flavorful elements and textures.
Going along with Western influence, JANG creates its desserts adopting Korean elements. Janet Park, executive chef at JANG, takes Korean rice cakes and deep fried them until the exterior is golden but inside is gooey and chewy. These gelatinous bites are dipped briefly into the green tea infused honey and served with candied walnuts. The flavor of green tea is surprisingly pronounced but it doesn't overpower the richness of the rice cakes at all. JANG serves both lunch and dinner and especially crowded during weekday lunch times.
BBQ Brothers, opened a few months ago in TST is quite a sensation in the area. It is rather surprising to find a lack of diners in the restaurant during dinner time, yet the later it gets, the more people gather around the BBQ restaurant until wee hours. Mr. Lee, owner of BBQ Brothers, explained that shops like the BBQ Brothers are popular in Korea, despite with a limited array of selections of meat available. Choices in Hong Kong extend towards more meats and even seafood.
When it comes to meat, purists of Korean BBQ may prefer meat that are not marinated. When there is a marinate, here's how BBQ Brother does it. Chefs here add sugar and pineapple juice to help tenderize the meaty fibres of the meat before they are seared quickly on the grill. There is also significance to the sauce dip served with grilled meats. Here one is served with a small plate of garlic cloves, green chilies and a combination of sesame oil spiked with flakes of sea salt. The "Grilled Assorted US Top Grade Beef" is a platter consisting of beef chuck, beef short ribs, beef ribs, and ox tongue. While it is crucial to slice these meat cuts thinly, it is the beef rib and short ribs that taste the meatiest, while ox tongue slices cook the quickest and yield the flavorful crunch in textures.
"Grilled Tripe" comes in strips, and mind not, it is not honeycomb tripe that are often seen in Chinese cuisine. Here the stomach muscle is cut into strips and quickly seared until crisp on the outside and slightly chewy throughout. We found that it's best served dipped into the salt-spiked sesame oil.
We go even further down with "Grilled Chicken Feet". Here chicken feet is deboned and marinated lightly with chili paste and chili powder. The texture is a delightful crunch with a sharp sense of heat from the chilies. This dish is also another favorite pairing for a round of booze.
Another signature at BBQ Brothers is "Grilled Pig Skin". The skin, beige in colour, is first grilled skin side down until the skin firms up and turned slightly golden. It is then flipped and grilled for a few minutes more until the skin turns translucent, which is the perfect time to snip it with scissors and heat it up until each bit of pig skin turns crispy.
The Pig Skin is served with toasted soya bean powder, which is a traditional means for serving grilled pig skin in Korea. We find that the brief dip into the soya bean powder reduces the sense of greasiness from the pig skin, although it can turn chewy if overcooked.
For alternative items at BBQ Brothers, one should consider the "Soup with Black Pudding". The name suggests this soup as a relief of hangover. However, we find the soup to be an aromatic one that does not remind us of black pudding. The addition of pigs offal brings richness to the soup made with bean sprouts. While its restorative power may be in question, we find it to be a flavourful and satisfying item from the menu.
BBQ Brothers opens every day from 3 pm until late night. Weeknights after 8 pm or weekends are busy times as reservations are strongly encouraged.