Sariwon Korean Barbecue, a newly opened restaurant in Bonifacio High Street Central, proves that Koreans and Filipinos are not only similar with their love for music and cheeky telenovelas; they also share a discerning palate for good food.
Awarded “Best Korean Restaurant” by NBC Broadcasting Company in 2005 and by the Seoul Metropolitan Government in 2007, Sariwon had a rather humble beginning. Her husband suffering from diabetes pushed Mrs. Bun-Im Koo to create her own bulgogi sauce from a mixture of various fruits and vegetables without using a single speck of sugar. Urged by neighbours and friends, they established their first restaurant in 1938, which transformed from a small diner with 27 seats to a whopping sitting capacity of 350 at their main branch in South Korea.
Every table in Sariwon is equipped with imported ceramic smokeless grills that have exhausts on the sides that suck out smoke from grilling, so you don’t have to worry about your clothes smelling of smoke upon leaving.
After we’ve settled into our seats, we were warmly welcomed by our server, Joy, who was carrying a tray with six side dishes called Banchan. The first thing I recognized was Korea’s national dish – Kimchi.
The names of the other side dishes, I asked our server to write down because there’s no way I could spell them myself. Shigumchi is blanched spinach leaves. Moosangchae, or seasoned Korean radish, reminded me of our very own achara. Kochu Meolchi Dokkeum is roasted anchovies with green chilli. They also have seasoned Korean bean sprouts or Kongnamul. Finally, there’s Tanhobak Sarada, which is mashed sweet pumpkin and potato, perhaps the Korean version of mashed potatoes. We forgot that these were side dishes, not appetizers, so when the other food arrived, there’s barely anything left on the plates.
Together with the tray of side dishes came a plate of Kaeinyachae or the house salad. It’s lightly coated with a dressing made with sesame oil and vinegar. The vegetable greens are very fresh and crisp, and the dressing provided a delicately tangy flavor.
For refreshments, I got myself their Kiwi Fresh Fruit Shake (Php 160). I love eating Kiwi, and Sariwon’s fruit shake definitely gave justice to how delicious this fruit is. I highly recommend everyone who plans to dine at Sariwon to try this.
Ate Mhel went with a glass of Sangria Soju (Php 195), a refreshing blend of apple, orange, and lemons slices mixed with red wine and soju. I had seconds thoughts on ordering this because I had soju at a beach party once and I woke up the next day with no recall of what happened the previous night. 😀 But Sariwon’s turned out to be a surprisingly refreshing drink, not too sweet or too bland, and with just the right amount of alcohol to warm up one’s appetite.
Japchae (Php 350) is a colorful dish of Korean vermicelli noodles, mushrooms, green onions, carrots, and other assorted vegetables. It’s quite similar to pansit bihon, but Japchae tastes sweeter. The noodles are also thicker and softer to the bite.
My favorite part of dinner was when our server turned on the grill and brought out a plate of fresh, very red, and succulent slabs of premium USDA Choice beef short ribs for our Seng Galbi (Php 780). The beef are grilled to your preferred doneness. Of course, we requested ours to be done medium.
After grilling, the beef were cut into bite-size pieces. Our server then placed a plate of Sangchoo or a mix of sesame leaves, lettuce, garlic slivers, and chilli paste on our table and instructed us on how to best savor our grilled beef short ribs.
First, stack a piece of lettuce and sesame leaf together, and then grab a piece of meat, top it with garlic slivers and some chilli paste. Put it in your mouth whole like what Koreans traditionally do, or simply take a small bite, chew it slowly and feel a sense of bliss crawl over you as the different flavors play in your mouth.
We weren’t even done raving how delicious Sariwon’s Seng Galbi was when the next dish, Dak Galbi (Php 350) arrived on our tables, smoke still wafting from where the chicken meets the hot metal sizzling plate. The meat was tender, full of flavour, and rightfully deserves to be paired with a serving of steamed rice, which was already sitting on our table.
We’ve had rice from the previous dish, but when Joy came with a bowl of piping hot Dolsot Bibimbap (Php 380) served in a sizzling stone pot, we were convinced we can squeeze in a few more spoonfuls of rice. This popular variation of bibimbap is very yummy that it doesn’t need to be paired with a viand and can be eaten alone.
The highlight of dinner came when our server replaced the grill top with a copper vessel that will cook our Sariwon Bulgogi (Php 545). She poured a special broth onto the sides of the vessel, added various vegetables and freshly made potato noodles, and grilled silky thin slices of USDA Choice beef in the middle.
Our server left and returned with two small bowls of their famous Sariwon Sauce that forever changed the fate of Korean Bulgogi. I have tried bulgogi from another Korean restaurant, and their version stands no comparison with how divine Sariwon Bulgogi tastes like.
I was dismayed after hearing that our dessert is a drink rather than a luscious piece of sweet pastry. BUT, I had a change of heart when I first had a sip of Sariwon’s Sikhye (Php 60.00). It’s a traditional Korean sweet drink made with malt and rice that is allowed to brew for 10 hours to develop the fullest of flavors. The texture of the rice was quite interesting, too. It wasn’t soggy. It was chewy, and I bet you’ll addictively nibble on every single piece of rice when you have this for dessert.
We truly had a blast dining at Sariwon Korean Barbecue. The food is superb and incomparable. Their servers are very accommodating, attentive, and anticipative of their customers’ needs. The thing we hope they will successfully strive for is consistency. If they keep doing what they are doing now, who knows in a year or less they’ll be able to open another branch. *fingers crossed*
Sariwon Korean Barbecue
Bonifacio High Street Central, Taguig
Open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Telephone Number: (02) 621-3205
Official Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/SariwonPhilippines
Twitter Account: @SariwonPH
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