Hearty Korean @ Bulgogi Brothers
Words by Craig J Selby
Photos by The Yum List
Korean hospitality is always one to savour – and being invited to experience one of the newest icons on the landscape of Korean culinary offering in Kuala Lumpur meant just one thing – a big ‘Yes’ from me. They said it was for cocktails, so it really was a no-brainer. But in typical Korean style, the drinks session evolved, and together my friends and I got to experience down-home Korean hospitality set amidst some enticing drinks with food to match.
|Korean Side Dishes - Lotus, Sweet Potato, Green Veg|
Bulgogi Brothers, one of the most recent restaurant chains to hit Kuala Lumpur, set up shop at KL’s Pavilion just a few months ago. The aim - tasty Korean food, with a selection of popular Korean beverages to boot. Our host was most obliging, as the first thing bought to the table was in fact an alcoholic beverage. Was he pre-warned about me, or was this simply a good guess on his part?
Tonight was certainly a great learning curve. I was introduced to tastes and textures I haven’t previously explored, and to be honest, enjoyed the cultural learning experience. The food was hearty, the drinks aplenty, and the company engaging. What more could I ask for?
I always thought that ‘soju’ was the quintessential Korean drink. However, I suspect that might be changing. The younger generation prefer an earthier flavoured beverage, ‘makguli’, which is milky in appearance and slightly more coarse in taste. Don’t assume though that because its milky that it’s not strong – it can knock the pants off you, and by the end of the night, let’s just say, I needed my belt! Makguli comes in both original and flavoured – mixed with fresh fruit juice for a distinctive taste.
I loved the original; it was certainly a refreshing choice, albeit a little sweet. Each bottle of makguli has about a one year shelf life, and until recently was typically drunk by farmers, but I’m told it is being popularised by the younger generation. I’m glad I’m still considered young!
But take makguli and infuse it with fresh pineapple, it takes on a whole new characteristic. Picture the traditional sunset drink, the pina colada, but add a bit more of a kick, and a much smoother flavour. Served in a stout looking jug, makguli originates in an elegant wine bottle – definitely more for the urban sophisticate rather than the farmer. Here’s hoping for a beverage revolution to get more people enjoying this. For me, it actually bought back nostalgic memories of pineapple popsicles (iceblocks), although as a kid, my iceblocks certainly didn’t have the punch that this does! I guess I missed out as a child.
|Korean Pina Colada|
I guess this was a typical starter drink for an evening, as it was served with a nice simple green salad. The crunch of the sesame seeds added texture, and the kim-chi was nicely spiced. The great thing about this was it wasn’t the usual watered-down kim-chi that we tend to get, but a good full strength batch. I’m told the kitchen prepare kim-chi daily, and that there’s quite a science to ensuring just the right potency. So, ok, they certainly have got the science down pat!
The strength of the makguli was starting to kick in, so the real first course came just at the right time. Haemul Pajeon, a Korean seafood pancake was bought forward. A restaurant favourite, this pancake was light and fluffy, with plenty of seafood. And not seafood stirred with a sharp knife, this was generous hearty chunks of seafood. I’m used to the typical pancake with just spring onions, so this was a lovely surprise. The seafood added just the right additional flavour and texture, without being overbearing. It certainly balanced my bloodstream and got me back on track for some more drinking.
|Haemul Pajeon - Korean seafood pancake|
Also served was Maekjeok – skewers of tender chicken grilled with vegetable chunks. In local terms, consider it satay, but definitely much bigger, and tastier. The chicken melts in your mouth; the vegetables crispy. This is a dish I will come back for.
|Maekjeok – grilled chicken skewers|
Our host then proceeded to pour ‘soju’ – “the” quintessential Korean alcohol famous the world over. What impressed me most about the beverages this evening however, was not the soju or the Makguli themselves, but how Bulgogi Brothers have taken the humble beverages and applied them in the art of cocktail making. A very intelligent twist on the favourite mohito is the Soji-to; Soju replaces the rum, yet manages to add its own distinct flavour, not out of line with the original drink. Fresh and minty, and definitely with a silent kick, the soji-to is an all-rounder for guys and gals, and a great accompaniment to the cuisine.
Between courses came a simple sweet potato soup. Nice and creamy, this soup had a little sugar added, along with sliced almond. Treated as a palette cleanser, the soup cut through the existing flavours from the chicken and the seafood, not to mention the drinks.
When we think Korean, most people with likely think BBQ at the table. Probably the most known cooking style for Korean food, it adds a dimension of fun and adventure to dinner as not only do you get to see the food being cooked, you can be an active participant in the process.
Our BBQ beef was nicely done. Tender angus beef, nicely cut and very tasty, was served with a choice of three sauces / seasonings. Either dip the beef in the seasoning first then cook, or do as I prefer, cook, then dip; each of the seasonings gave a very distinctive flavour. My favourite is the simple salt and pepper dip, as any meat lightly coated in salt and pepper is for me, devine. Though, I have to say, their special sauce was a hot with my dinner guests, who even convinced the Chef to allow them to take some back for their home cooking.
The beef was cooked by the restaurant staff in front of us, and cooked the way we asked for. I’m a big fan of rare beef, but I know it’s not to everyone’s liking. I did try a piece prepared well done too, dipped in the Bulgogi Brothers special sauce, and loved it too.
As red wine goes with beef, we were served a Korean twist on this too – raspberry wine. What a lovely infusion; one that certainly topped off the evening. The raspberry wine was served to accompany the Bulgogi Brothers special – one of their top orders. Minced beef, pressed and cut into a heart shape, and gently barbecued at our table. With a nice proportion of fat to the meat (25% fat), it glistens as it sizzles, and the fat means that the meat cooks nicely without the need for any assistance. Using a special Bulgogi Brothers sauce to bind the meat, our taste buds are left with a very nice taste sensation to finish off the evening, a slightly sweet and mildly spicy taste lingers well beyond our raspberry wine.
At the end of the night I did find it a challenge to walk in a straight line, but one thing was for certain, I was full. If you are looking for hearty Korean cooking, with friendly hospitality and a good selection of drinks, Bulgogi Brothers is certainly a place to put on your very own Yum List. My recommendation – try the soji-to!
Reason to visit: good value meals, Korean cocktails.
Lot 6.01.03, Level 6, Pavillion KL Shopping Mall
No. 168 Jalan Bukit Bintang
55100 Kuala Lumpur
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