Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Sariwon Korean Barbecue at the Bonifacio Highstreet Central

"Sariwon has become synonymous with serving legendary Bulgogi since its beginnings in 1938. The restaurant was established by grandmother Mrs. Bun-Im Koo from the town of Sariwon in North Korea..."
Paul and I truly enjoyed our trip to Seoul, South Korea as we were able to enjoy having Korean barbecue and other delicious Korean dishes for 6 full days. We loved it so much that Paul wants to go back to Seoul soon. I couldn't agree with him more. How can we not fall in love with Korea? The cool weather, the pretty fashionable dresses, the reasonably-priced items and the endless choices of food. Six days truly wasn't enough and we can't wait to go back to explore Korea some more.

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It then made sense that we took the family out for an intimate Korean lunch to celebrate my sister's birthday a few weeks ago. Located at the rapidly bustling Bonifacio Highstreet Central, we found Sariwon Korean Barbecue. The restaurant has a very modern feel which reminds me of the posh Korean restaurant called Arirang that my family used to frequent back in the 90s. It's owned by our high school friends Donna and Diana who are expert restauranteurs.

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We were seated at a 4-seater booth with a built-in grill-top. Our meal began with some banchan (appetizer) which is very typical when dining at a Korean restaurant. The number of appetizers varies though. So far, my favorite is Jang Ga Nae's banchan offerings that changes every day. At Sariwon, we had some kimchi, cold beansprouts, mashed squash, spicy radish and salty anchovies. We all loved the kimchi. So much that we kept on requesting for more refills of this.

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What's Korean food without grilled barbecue? Following our appetizers, we had two types of grilled beef. First the Galbi (Php. 545/280g) which came in a plate with two huge strips of marinated USDA Choice beef short ribs. All grilled meat are cooked using the ceramic charcoal griller, cut and served by our very efficient server.



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While the meat is normally very flavorful already, I love dipping my grilled meat into one of the many sauces available. My personally favorite is the sesame oil with salt combination. Yes, oily and salty -- really sinful but I love it!

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We all enjoyed the Galbi that we also welcomed the Seng Galbi (Php. 780/280g) with open arms and mouth (haha). The only difference between the two is that the Galbi meat was marinated and this wasn't. Thus, expect to get a fuller meaty flavor with the Seng Galbi. For all grilled meats, you will be served with a plate of raw garlic (which you may opt to grill as well) and some leaves. The best way to enjoy this is to wrap a piece of meat with the veggie, add some Korean soy bean paste (Ssamjang) and eat the whole thing in one go!

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Admittedly, a big percentage of Sariwon's menu has beef as the main item however there are a couple of non-beef items available too. This includes the Dak Galbi (Php. 350) which is grilled boneless chicken marinated overnight in Sariwon's secret spice sauce. In Korea, this is usually a spicy dish and it even says so in the menu however we were not able to detect any hint of spiciness and in some bites we find it a bit sweet. The meat was tender and good but definitely not similar to the authentic Dak Galbi.

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Another non-beef option is the Haemul Pajeon (Php. 350) which is the traditional Korean pancake made with all kinds of seafoods (oysters, squid, shrimp and green onions). This is one of the best pajeon we've had this is very much similar to the ones that we've had in Seoul. Once again, I love dipping this into my salt and oil dip. Mmmm

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Since it was Pan's birthday, of course, we got to have some noodles! We tried the Japchae (Php. 350) which was good but I feel lacking in flavor. The Korean vermicelli noodles had a good bite though and they were pretty generous with the mushrooms, green onions, carrots and other veggie toppings. Perhaps there's a need to adjust the sauce combination to perk up the taste even more.

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Another Sariwon must-have is the Dolsot Bibimbap (Php. 380). My sister and I first tried this dish when we dined at Kaya Restaurant almost a decade ago and ever since, this has been our favorite Korean dish. We love the flavorful rice mixed with beef, spinach, beansprout, egg and a small amount of Korean chili. Mix it well and enjoy it in a sizzling stone pot. I love the thin layer of socarrat at the bottom of the pot. Yum!

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Lastly, we had Deungsim Yangnyeom Bulgogi (Php. 495). What's a meal at Sariwon without trying their bulgogi? This dish comes with honey marinated USDA choice beef slices and sweet potato noodles which they do upon order. Their bulgogi is prepared during a different table-top cooker where they cook the beef first and afterwards they use the excess liquid to cook the hand-made sweet potato noodles.

I'm not a fan of misua simply because I do not like the mushy and soft consistency of the noodles and the sweet potato noodles is closely similar to the Chinese misua. I appreciated the beefy taste though but I'm pretty much satisfied eating the bulgogi beef alone.

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What a feast!! :) We enjoyed all of the dishes served to us and to cap off our meal we were given cups of Shikhye which is Sariwon's version of the usual pineapple platter that we usually get from our favorite Korean restaurant. This delicious drink is made of malt and rice and is said to be very nutritious as Koreans normally drink this to improve their blood circulation and to ease hangovers too. *hic* As for me, it was a refreshing treat after our delicious Korean barbecue lunch!

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I'm so glad that more and more authentic Korean restaurants are coming to town! Good thing my friends Donna and Diana fell in love with Sariwon during one of their many trips to Korea that they decided to bring it to Manila. Hooray!

*photo credit: Paul Ang

Check out Sariwon Korean Barbecue at the 2nd floor of the Bonifacio Highstreet Central. (They're located on top of Slice and Jamba Juice). Bonifacio Highstreet Central is located at the 7th Avenue corner 29th Street, Bonifacio Global City in Taguig City. Call them at 621-3205.

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