While I’ve frequently made my case against cooking my own food when I dine out, I’m finding myself making many exceptions these days for Korean barbeque. Having a good catch-up sesh with friends while lovely marinated chunks of meat sizzle over the fire is truly one of life’s greatest pleasures.
What usually seals the deal for me is a meal that offers value-for-money and great service. Sadly, you can’t assume that you’ll be able to have both at some of the Korean BBQ eateries here, though I guess it’s hard to blame them – those places really pack in the crowds, especially on weekends.
Recently, I was invited by the good folks at Sixth Sense PR to check out the newest Korean BBQ offering in town – E!ght Korean BBQ at Central. Two things set this apart from your run-of-the-mill Korean BBQ outlets out there: (1) There will be servers on-hand to prepare your food for you, and (2) The focus here is on thick, hunky marinated chunks of Berkshire pork belly, available in eight flavours.
The first thing that strikes you as you’re shown to your table is the thoughtfulness and functionality of the design of the place. The stool that you sit on doubles up as a bag-holder. Simply lift up the cover to deposit your belongings – now you can eat in peace knowing that your designer bag won’t smell of Korean BBQ. You’ll also notice that the pans on which your meat is cooked is tilted at an angle; that’s to help the excess oil flow away.
Now, the food. When the 8 Colours Set, $98, arrives at your table, it’s quite a sight to behold. The pork belly chunks are lovely and thick – the only way pork belly should be. They’ve also been marinated in eight different ways, hence the name of the set. The flavours are: wine, original, ginseng, herb, garlic, curry, miso, red pepper paste. You also have the option of ordering the smoked one for an extra $12. The meats are also prepared in a certain order and you’re encouraged to try them in that order; from the more subtle to the more intense flavours. Personally, I loved most of them but wasn’t a fan of the ginseng and curry, though it really is a matter of personal preference.
The server knew exactly how long to cook the meat for, which is long enough for them to be cooked all the way through but not so long that they turn tough and sinewy. Each bite of the fatty meat was heaven in my mouth. Seriously, this place is a gamechanger and certainly sets the standard for Korean BBQ in Singapore. At $98, it seems pricey, but less so when you consider the value that you get out of it. The set also comes with complimentary Korean appetisers such as kimchi and more to help temper the oiliness of the meal.
If you feel a little overwhelmed by all this meat, do have some of the Seafood Bean Paste Stew, which comes with the 8 Colours Set. It’s a hearty soup that will help cleanse your palate and provide a taste contrast to all that meat. For a smaller, yet still-satisfying meal, do get the Chul Pan, $17, which is only available at lunch time. It comes to you presented as a “tower” of beef brisket atop assorted vegetable. This is stir-fried on the spot with Korean red pepper paste, and served with steamed rice on the side. Prefer beef to pork? You also have the option of USDA Prime Beef and Australian Wagyu.
I predict that E!ght Korean BBQ will be a hit among diners if it is able to maintain its high standards. Once you’ve had a meal there, most of the other Korean BBQ restaurants out there will seem mediocre by comparison. Perhaps the only complaint I have is that because the tables are quite narrow, you run the risk of a little bit of oil splatter. Then again, it really doesn’t matter that much if you’re not in the habit of having Korean BBQ for a weekday lunch. Oh, and if you’re coming by for dinner, do arrive early to grab a table at the al fresco area for a lovely view of the Singapore River as you dine.
E!ght Korean BBQ is at #02-79/90 The Central. Tel: 6222 2159.
Material World was invited to a tasting at E!ght Korean BBQ and was not paid for this review. All opinions are the author’s own.
About the Author: Denise Li is a founder of Material World and a freelance writer-editor. Before that, she spent a few years in the Features section of CLEO and Cosmopolitan Singapore. She considers Chiang Mai her spiritual home and makes it a point to head there for a yearly pilgrimage. She’s also a fitness buff and enjoys boxing, running and the occasional yoga session. Korean BBQ is the one reason she’d find it hard to turn vegetarian. Follow her on Twitter @DeniseLiTweets.
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