pretty-good but certainly not-cheap korean at this rather traditional-looking restaurant along thomson road. my family doesn’t often have korean – my dad doesn’t quite fancy the cuisine – but I love it. the spiciness, all that meat, and the rather distinctive sweet-spicy flavor has me hooked.
it’s generally an expensive cuisine to indulge in locally – perhaps not as much as japanese, but nearly on par – and I never get why, since it shares very similar ingredients with chinese cooking, which very often doesn’t cost nearly this much. this place carries the same heavyish price tag, but the food is quite authentic and rather tasty – so it’s good for a once-in-a-while meal.
it’s a small menu of traditional korean offerings: soup, hotplated meats and a couple of grill items. we went home-style this time, eschewing the barbecue for a more dishes-and-rice meal: a hot plate of beef came as a mound of thin slices cooked up with that distinctly sweet-savory sauce they so excel in. there was a good smattering of vegetables strewn through – very good with the sticky rice.
we opted for a non-spicy soup, with tofu and egg and loads of spring onions over the top. a tad salty, but most of these are, what with their miso bases. good, but nothing really worth ordering (and most probably not again).
the nakji bokkeum, or bits of diced octopus stir-fried with vegetables in a spicy sauce, is probably my all-time favorite korean dish (it’s a close fight with the carb dream that is dobboki, which are tender yielding rice cakes in this same sauce). the cephalopod here is tender but bouncy in the best way – the suckers on the tentacle bits are the best combination of chewy crunchiness (it makes sense only if you’ve had it), and cooked with quite a lot of cabbage and onions in a sweet-but-not-too-sweet sauce.
I loved this – my favorite dish of the night – and a very good reminder of why I so like the cuisine. inferior versions of this dish (sadly more common than you’d hope) have the squid too soft or too small, or in too scanty a portion to truly taste, but this one had that al dente down pat, and a decent proportion of squid to other-stuff. very good.
the mackerel was also delicious, if very expensive (I believe this was quite high in the twenties). it was quite a lot larger than we’re used to seeing – about twice or thrice the size of those saba fillets you get in japanese restaurants – but probably fair enough, seeing as how the size was merely proportionate to its price. you must like oily fish to order this though, as it was a fine specimen of grilled mackerel – it’s strongly fish-tasting in the best way, oily with a good appetising shine (but not greasy), and the flesh flaked off tender under a crisp skin that crackled.
I’m a bit of a fish fiend, so this was right up my alley – but bewarned that it would do about three-to-four average eaters easily. it came with a wedge of lemon – ask for more, as it cuts through the grease with some much-needed acidity – and a sweet-salty dipping sauce (which I can’t place – any help?). good, good.
at the end, it was a very enjoyable dinner. the waitresses were harried but service was otherwise efficient and quite prompt – and we got our banchan (only 2 rounds allowed, mind you) early after ordering, which held us off for that brief period before our mains starting arriving in force. they serve good quality rice too, sticky and hot in traditional metal bowls – and can we also talk about how authentic (and adorable) those paper-sealed-as-proof-of-never-been-used utensils are? it brings me some lovely memories of a years-ago holiday in korea.
the meal is rather bill-heavy, enough to induce second thoughts about coming back, but the food is faultlessly home-cooked goodness. it’s warm and comforting, comes fast and furious, and the flavors are exactly as you’d want. well worth a visit for a good meal.
Auntie Kim’s Korean Restaurant
265 Upper Thomson Road (the shophouses on the same side, and closest to Thomson Plaza)
tel +65 6452 2112
$$.5: three dishes + one soup = one-thirty
p.s. the place fills up quickly, so reservations are much-recommended.