Showing posts with label Korean Restaurant. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Korean Restaurant. Show all posts

Friday, December 28, 2018

Leehak Korean Buffet: Year-ender Lunchout with Colleagues

December 28, 2018 0
Leehak Korean Buffet 

A rainy Friday midmorning after our shift but it was the 28th of December and we've been planning a lunchout for like ages, having it postponed for another week might end it like those plans that only happened in a group chat in FB messenger. So despite the drizzly weather, we gave it a go.

Choosing where to dine was not a difficult discussion. We've been talking it for weeks, to feast on samgyeopsal and other Korean dishes in a buffet setting.


The buffet table at Leehak

So we easily agreed on the most convenient route - Lee Hak Buffet in Kapitolyo, a convenient destination for us since it is closer to Mandaluyong. The girls were so insistent to let me gorge pork! Oh God!

To be very honest, I rarely eat meat, much more pork, so unlike other Pinoy K-pop fans who are crazy about samgyeopsal, bulgogi and, oh kimchi, I dreaded it. But I like oriental dishes and Korean cuisine is one of the most interesting fares in Asia so I relented and agreed with the team.

Our table

Korean buffet is making a wave in the Philippine food landscape recently. Not because it hits K-pop Pinoy fanatics to the core but because it suits well to the Filipino taste and culture of dining - the food feast.

So this concept of buffet ultimately became a game changer in Philippine restaurant industry.

I have never been into a Korean restaurant (though my tastebud is very oriental) until in July this year when I visited Sodam in Greenhills, so the Leehak gourmand trip last Friday was only my second time to take a Korean buffet food adventure.

When we got there, it was only 11:30 in the morning, the lunchtime opening hour of the restaurant, so it was still not crowded. And the dishes were still freshly cooked. My attention was not on the samgyeopsal, however. I was looking for dishes that would not overdo my tummy. But it was mostly meat, meat and meat.


The meat!

I dashed to the other side of the long table to search for other interesting dishes and thanked God there were fish and vegetables (though I could not really recall if I took veges at all haha!). And yes, Maki! I always like Korean fried chicken , very oriental recipe. At Leehak, yes, the version was tasty, sans spicy. I love the breaded fish, the potato salad and the fresh green salad.


Potato salad
Korean-style fried chicken
Korean maki

After taking a frequent trip to the buffet table, piling several plates and wondering what else to hoarde, finally we settled in a rectangular table with a grilling station in the center. Our already crowded table became even more crowded with the sight of raw meats. Oh, meats!

So while my colleagues were enthusiastic with the smell of grilled meats, I was wondering how I would take the pork belly without thinking with those poor pigs being slaughtered elsewhere, just to serve people with this called samgyupsal craze.


Our table packed with Korean dishes 

Samgyeopsal or samgyupsal is a gui or grilled dish in a Korean cuisine, it is literally means, three layer dish, referring to the pork belly cut in three layers. It is widely popular in Korea and now invading the Philippine food industry due to Filipinos going crazy over K-pop stars.



I tried two strips wrapped in lettuce and mixed with kimchi. It was a bit surreal haha! My mind always undergoes some process of revolting each time I consume meat. So after the two strips, I turned my attention to breaded fish and fruits.


Leehak has a wide selection of savory food. Not just samgyeopsal. Spreading into its long table and several food stations are concoctions of Chicken and fish, vegetables, fried rice, salad, greens, the paninis, fresh fruits, processed raw meats like ham, sausages, large cut of meats, are also included. The usual Korean recipes are concocted with a twist that suits Filipino palates. So the the dining experience here is a bit festive.

However, I have noticed that pork belly strips are quite in a large cut compared to the one I have tried months ago. And there was no beef strips selection among the raw meats. Unlike in other Korean buffet setting, at Leehak, the meat strips are not served in racks. There is a separate station for raw meats with an array of sausages and ham.


All time favorite Korean dishes are available here

Leehak food selections are fair, satisfying enough for people who are into normal oriental cuisine. With the exemption of kimchi, other recipes are not overly spicy and stingy which surprised me a bit, since most comfort food of Korean cuisine is a bit chili. 

 I tried this traditional Korean recipe, the fish cake and rice cake combined in a thick sauce and it was tasty and good. If I would make a repeat visit at Leehak, definitely, I will get another bowl of rice cake.


They also served a tinola chicken soup which I like. It pacifies growling tummy and balances the greasy effect of grilled pork belly. If you are into green salad, the fruit and vege station offers a large volume of lettuce! I also love the baby potato salad, something you would not missed if you visit Leehak.

Heavy lunch!

The restaurant atmosphere is a little dim, but I guess this interior atmosphere is a very common theme among oriental restaurants. Earth tone and very rustic but good enough to experience comfort. The area is well ventilated and has an enough exhaust equipment that sucks the smoke from grilling tables.

Comfortable table setter of four in a couch awaits everyone. So you and your companions have a relaxing dining experience while basking at the couch and enjoying a bite of samgyeopsal. Staff also quickly refill the station with additional dishes. So there's no reason to wonder in case empty dish racks are seen in the buffet table.



Overall, Leehak is a good dining place if you like Korean dishes with a Filipino food twist. Tasty, flavorful, luscious and in large amount. You can have a satisfying lunch or dinner while sharing laughter and conversation with colleagues, friends and loved ones.



Buffet table area

Rates per head in Philippine peso. Monday to Thursday lunch time (11:30AM-3:00PM) 359.00, dinner time (6:00-10:00PM) is at 399.00. Friday to Sunday and Holidays lunch time is at 499.00 dinner time at 599.00. Take note: Rates as of 2018 December and might change without prior notice.

Leehak Buffet we visited is at 8006 Pioneer, Kapitolyo, Pasig but very accessible from Boni avenue in Mandaluyong. If you are coming from Robinsons Forum in Boni Ave, you may ride a tricycle to Pioneer Center, travel time is around 10 minutes.


Watch out vlog for this food trip in our youtube channel, 
Click this LINK

Friday, July 6, 2018

Sodam Korean Restaurant

July 06, 2018 0
Outside the restaurant

Ever since the K-drama invaded the Philippine television some years ago, quite a number of Filipinos have been caught up by the K-pop bugs, no wonder Korean products, even restaurants, became very popular to Pinoy consumers.

Korean restaurants have mushroomed in the metropolis, and samgyupsal, a popular Korean food, ultimately became a dizzying food trip trend.

Though I am not guzzled up with the K-pop craze, I am curious about their food.

Although samgyeopsal appears very strange to me since I am not into meat, I am eager to take a bite just to find out how it really tastes. And just like any other gastronome adventurers, I am open to the possibility of exploring Korean cuisine.

Two days ago, together with my colleagues, I took a leap of stepping into the world of Korean food. I did not know what to expect. I have not tried any Korean dishes before. But just like anyone else embarking into a food adventure somewhere, excitement swelled up.

Just before the restaurant's opening

Originally, we planned to go to a Korean restaurant in Malate where diners can wear Hanbok, the traditional attire of Koreans, while eating. But the restaurant only offers a seat-down meal and the boys wanted something more than that. 

So we searched for another resto that features a buffet meal. We ended up choosing Sodam Korean Restaurant in San Juan.

It was a hot Tuesday morning. And the intense environmental temperature was made worst by the traffic congestion en-route to San Juan. So when we arrived at J. Abad Santos drive it was either we were hungry, thirsty or annoyed with the blistering heat of the sun. I was neither. In fact, great anticipation of a happy food trip mounted in my mind.

Buffet area of Sodam

Sodam Korean Restaurant opens at 11:30 in the morning and we reached the place before 10:30. So we needed to stay outside (the staff anyway offered us benches) after we made a reservation. Towards 11:00 o'clock,  the staff allowed us to get in together with other diners. And while stepping inside, honestly, I could not feel anything other than hesitation. I was unsure what it was. Felt like a looming disaster was rolling somewhere. I find the interior a little tedious.
                                                                 
It was a jam-packed lunch hour. All tables were filled in on both floors, making it hard to move around without bumping on the next person. Though the interior appeared more like a homey structure furnished with some oriental decors, it brought so much discomfort to my senses because of the atmosphere of having diners fidgeting in a small space.

 

The place looked like an enclosed two-storey house smacked between old buildings with unimpressive interior. While I adored a minimalist design, Sodam was too way down bland, rustic and too vintage. The ambiance was reminiscent to old Kungfu movies where characters engaged into fierce fight scenes in a restaurant.

At 11:15, staff began filling in the racks with, well, samgyeopsal. And beef! I have learned that bulgogi refers to grilled pork and beef so I am certain we did not try this selection. What we had was only those poor raw things. There was a grilled pot built on each four-setter table, something I find unpleasant because smoke will be directly wafting in diners' eyes.


 But girls just wanna have fun 😅[/caption]

But while I was grieving with the irksome ambiance, which was far from being cool, I was delighted with the selections of fare at the buffet table. Delectable and savory. Very oriental concoctions indeed. Though far from luscious (you know that lipsmacking tad), the selections captured even the most subtle appetite with its balanced flavor and twists.  

I tried almost everything in the selections. From fish fillet to sauteed vegetables to chicken and mussels to omelet. Even the kimchi. And it was hot! Naay! I am not fond of chilli food so when I tried kimchi I cringed! But I guess it was just right for tongues that can tolerate hot and spicy dishes. Apart from kimchi, the rest of the food selections tasted awesome. I will give two cents to the fish fillet lathered with whipping cream. A must-try. The coating was just right.



But unlike the characteristic of the Japanese food which has some spicy overtones, Korean dishes appeared sweet (though not entirely sugary) and piquant. I don't have issues with sweet-coated food but I could easily get full with this kind of flavor, so much so that I did not finish everything in my plate that day. Overall, the buffet meal selections at Sodam can satisfy one's hunger. It captures the pinoy taste that craves sweetness in recipes.

And yes! Here comes the highlight of this Korean food adventure - the grilling epic where the spotlight centered on samgyeopsal. Porky baby, oh God! I was so naive with this Korean gui (dish) that when a pile of wood racks were rolled into our table I thought it was bacon haha! When I whispered it to Scarlet (you know calling samgyeopsal a bacon) she gave me a confused look, I guess she could not decide whether to  agree with me or give me a little lecture on using the correct term.

Racks of Samgyupsal

My unsympathetic treatment over meat has some deep roots. Ever since I was a kid my father admonished us never to consume too much meat (except native chicken). Hypertension runs in the family so my father has been particular with the type of food we eat. So I grew up avoiding meat in my meals. Ten years ago I totally stopped eating red meat when I discovered consuming meat can contribute to global warming. So this Korean food sojourn with all those meats spread in our table sounded like a punishment. But I was fine, I enjoyed the buffet meal anyway.


While my colleagues were grilling stuff and enjoying the pork and beef, I was silently agonizing with the thoughts of animals being killed mercilessly for food consumption. Though pigs and cows are part of the food chain, I still find it implacable to kill one just to be consumed. My latest lifestyle of not eating meat actually is not entirely about health but on my advocacy of no to animal killings. Each time I see meat, I am wondering how animals were slaughtered and how were they during their dying moment.

But I was with my friends and looking them happy gorging grilled meat made me thought life can be so simple and can be twisted in instant. I tried few strips of grilled beef but did not finish the last strips. My appetite started to revolt, not because I did not like the taste. But it was meat. And the gruesome thought of killing animals haunted my mind. However, it was tasty,  a little sweet though, but for diners who have penchant over Korean barbeque-styled dishes, this selection sounds terrific.

Other selections in the buffet table

But the overall structure of the place has a negative impact on me. It was close and there was no conducive ventilator to exhaust and suck the smoke coming from the grilling plate. Our eyes ended up absorbing the tendrils of smoke, piling up to the unpleasant atmosphere inside. Looking around the second floor, I saw smoke draping across, circling around, blurring the entire view as though it was a picnic ground for smokers . Not ideal for people who have some respiratory problem.

I have not tried the samgyeopsal but according to my friends it was tasty. The fact that they had several racks turned and replaced by more racks, vouched the idea that it was indeed scrumptious. I saw them devoured the meat with gusto.

Sodam Restaurant is an ideal place for people who adored meat - pork and beef in particular. The unlimited selections will give an infinite dose of meat binging and overindulging during meal time. You can, in fact, make a repeat request of as many racks of pork belly and as many plates of marinated beef as you can. And you have the pleasure of grilling it on your own, you can control the temperature and the texture of the meat if you like it medium-rare or well done.

Buffet time

For gourmand trippers, the buffet table of Sodam offers a mammoth of choices, whether you are into sea food and vegetables or opt for Korean recipes and Filipino dishes with a twist, the place has something enormous to fill. But not so much for people who equate comfy of place to insanely delicious meal.

Sodam Korean Restaurant might be a perfect place for meat lovers and who love to just go out there and eat, then leave the place, but this is not a good place to hang around with friends and family.

Comfort is at stake and the smoke coming from the grilling plate can really ruin a good day. It is more punishing if you reserve a place on the second floor where smoke will just drift around with no conducive exhausting equipment. Very prickly to the eyes. The place is quite dreary for a sit-down meal and the setup is so compact you might accidentally elbow the next person if you clumsily move.
I will rate the place with 4/10 for ambiance, and 6/10 for food.

Asking if I will recommend it? Well, for folks who love unlimited meat and who have hearty appetite, this is a must-try place. And I love the seafood and the vegetables! But not for people who look for comfort. The place is too rustic and too compact to be considered a cool food destination. But if you are into all things Korean, this place will surely interest you.

Sodam Korean Restaurant opens at 11:30 in the morning but you need to make a reservation ahead as the place can really get full even during lunch time. For rates, you may check the screenshot below. During our lunch out we spent only Php318.00 per head. This covers the entire buffet meal and unlimited racks of pork belly and plates of beef meat. However, drinks are not included.

The location of the place is quite unpleasant to commuters, so better take a car pool if you come as a group. For diners who will bring a car, you need to come early as parking space is very limited.

Note: My cellphone got snatched following this food trip, so I have no personal photos taken here.

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