See Foon Chan-Koppen
I love Korean food: the barbecues, the selection of small appetisers, the various types of ‘kimchi’, the aroma of meats on the grill, the fire sizzling and searing the various meats on the myriad open grills around which sit eager diners, enjoying their green tea or ‘Shochu’ a strong white Korean liquor. The ambience is always one of total enjoyment, a let’s-eat-drink-and be-merry-tomorrow-is-another-day spirit of abandonment as people tuck in with gusto.
There are and have been Korean restaurants in Ipoh, some authentic, others middling, mostly small eateries which cater to about 20-30 diners. Some have come and gone and most that have closed down have not been missed or mourned. My complaint at most of them has been the sugariness (and I use this word deliberately) in their food…from the marinade of the meats to the little anchovies, to even the kimchi (raw cabbage and other vegetables pickled, using a special natural fermentation process that produces friendly bacteria which is good for the gut) which, if my memory serves me, in Korea, is pungent, tart, and distinctly ‘un-sweet’.
The latest newcomer to the Korean food scene is right up there in matching my palate. Daorae, the newly opened restaurant in deGarden fronting Jalan Sultan Azlan Shah (Tasek Road) has been opened barely a month and is already packing them in and doing a roaring business.
Daorae which in Korean means ‘everybody welcome’ is a largish restaurant with a seating capacity of 200. COO Steve Cho Seyon, a tall affable Korean, was on hand to introduce some of the restaurant’s specialities and to highlight some of the salient points on Korean style dining.
“The main elements in a Korean meal revolve around soup and rice with many accompanying side dishes. In Korea, the restaurants tend to specialise while outside Korea we need to showcase our cuisine and therefore we are inclined to have a large menu as is the case with Daorae. This will be the 11th restaurant we have opened in Malaysia and we’re still looking for more locations,” he said.
On my first visit to Daorae, I was impressed by the lack of cooking smells, despite the fact that most tables were having barbecue – a sign that their exhaust system is working well. The tables are well spaced out and the exhaust funnels hanging over each table lent a festive air to the ambience. The food was impressive enough for me to warrant a return visit and to sample more dishes.
They were very generous with their side dishes, on average 9-10 per day. The constants here are the two types of homemade kimchi, the cabbage and the white radish; bean sprouts and greens. Other side dishes on the days I was there included zucchini with dried shrimp; crab sticks, cucumber & carrot wrapped in omelette roll; scallion salad; black beans; braised eggplant; balitong or tiny sea snails; and spinach.
For the mains, we started with the barbecue. Instead of LPG gas which is used often in other restaurants, the barbecue at Daorae is done over charcoal which the well-trained Nepalese waiters bring carefully to the table. A small steel tureen of sliced garlic in oil is set down to simmer gently away as the meat is cooked. For every different meat dish ordered, the grill plate is changed and the charcoal too if it has cooled down.
Saeng-dung-shim is their special prime beef without marinade served with seasoned sesame oil. This was a slab of very well marbled US beef that was cut into bite sized pieces after grilling and melt-in-mouth tender. We were encouraged to take pieces of beef, dip them in the seasoned sesame oil, add some of their Korean ‘sambal’ if we so wished, and wrap the piece in a lettuce leaf which was supplied in abundance – RM75.
We followed this up with Maeun Dweji Gal-bi their filleted choice pork marinated in Korean spicy chilli sauce and again eaten the same way, this time with the addition of scallion salad to the lettuce parcel – RM28. On my previous visit I had sampled their spicy pork belly which was equally scrumptious.
Determined to sample as many dishes as we could handle, our group of four proceeded to do justice to Pa-jeon, a delicate savoury pancake comprising fresh seafood in batter topped with spring onion – RM25; Dolsot-bibim-bab, a rich layering of fresh and seasoned vegetables served in steaming hot stone bowl over a bed of steamed rice topped with fried egg, served with Korean chilli paste – like a Korean claypot rice – RM20 (I particularly enjoyed the crusty bits of the rice at the bottom); Kwen-jang-jjigae, fresh seafood, tofu and fresh vegetables in a rich traditional Korean miso broth, served with rice – RM19; O-jing-er-so-myun, sliced squid with an assortment of vegetables stir-fried in spicy sauce served with noodles – RM35. This latter dish was the onlyone that didn’t quite agree with my taste buds as it was rather sweet but my companions enjoyed it.
Daorae is definitely worth many return visits in the future.
Daorae Korean BBQ Restaurant
Lot L1-R-9, First Floor deGarden
No. 3 Persiaran Medan Ipoh, 31400 Ipoh. Tel.: 05-5482616