Monday, October 26, 2009

Arirang, Sathorn, Bangkok

Tonight, I was invited to dine at a nearby Korean restaurant in town.  My hosts (close family friends) told me that everything 'Korea' is really big in Bangkok right now, almost to the point of calling it 'Korea fever'.

I love a good Korean bbq, so I was really looking forward to experiencing my first Korean dining experience in Bangkok.

Having arrived by car, there was a car park attendant at the ready to help.  They even open the doors for you here which is a lovely touch.  Car park attendants are usually on a low wage so they always appreciate a tip.

We were greeted with the usual Thai hello - 'Sawasdee' as we entered the restaurant.   There are a few private dining rooms upstairs, with the main open restaurant on the ground floor.  Tonight, our hosts had already booked one of the private dining rooms upstairs.

Our table had two circular barbeques, one at either end.  Our hosts had already arrived and so they had taken the liberty of ordering us all a feast. 

The first to arrive were the selection of Banchan, which are simply small side dishes.  Every Korean restaurant will serve Banchan at the start of the meal and there is usually a mix of cool, sweet, salty, spicy and sour.  Our Banchan tonight included a deliciously dressed fresh lettuce salad, cool seaweed, kimchi (fermented chilli cabbage), diced kimchi turnip, spicy papaya pickle (Thai influence), oyster mushrooms, garlic nuts and spinach amongst a couple of other things.  I have to say that I loved them all and my favourite was definitely the Asian dressed lettuce salad. 

However, there was one that was, well let me simply put it by saying that it was a rather bizarre pairing - a ball of cold mashed potato with strawberry sauce.  Yes, you read right and yes, it was plain weird.  I'm not even sure Heston Blumenthal would have thought of putting these two together, although I have heard some say his bacon and egg ice-cream doesn't taste quite as strange as it sounds...This dish definitely did!

A great thing about this place is that you can have as many refills of Banchan as you like (obviously within reason) and no, we didn't ask for more of the above dish.

We were then brought a mix of Korean mini pancakes.  I have never seen it served this way and I have only ever had the Korean scallion pancake, which by the way is utterly delicious when done well.  Even so, seeing as I don't know a great deal about Korean food, I can't say whether it was authentic or not.  I will say that the huge serving plate consisted of a variety of mini pancakes - courgettes (zucchinis), carrots, taro, minced pork.  Each mini pancake was so deliciously tasty; I could have just eaten the whole plateful. 

Our hosts had ordered a hot kimchi dish with slices of fresh tofu.  Hot kimchi was another first for me and I have to say, it was really rather good.  However, I didn't particularly care much for the fresh tofu slices.  As a good source of lean protein, I do eat quite a bit of tofu. Personally,
prefer it cooked in a hotpot or stir fried with some vegetables.  So I do think this dish could have done without it.

A gorgeous rice dish arrived which consisted of rice, grated carrot, shitake mushrooms, spinach and minced beef.  It was oh sooo good; by far my favourite.  My hosts kept telling me to slow down as we still had the bbq beef and pork ribs to come.  However much I tried to resist, I simply couldn't stop my arm from reaching in for yet another spoonful.  This savoury rice dish was yum, yum, yummy!! 

Unfortunately, because I got a little side tracked with stuffing my face full of food, I forgot to take pictures of the barbequed beef slices and the pork ribs.  So I apologise for there being no pictures of these two dishes.  Let me just tell you that having barbequed the beef ourselves (well one of the hosts to be precise), it was oh sooo good.  And the juicy, tender pork ribs had been wondefully deboned - which made for excellent munching without any mess. 

As I said, I don't confess to knowing a great deal about Korean food, but I really enjoyed my first Korean banquet in Bangkok.  It was truly delicious, the smell of the barbeque meat didn't stick to my clothes (always a bonus and means that the air vents worked well), and the staff were pleasant.  I would definitely come back here again. 

Arirang - Sathorn
199/1 Sathorn Soi 12, Sathorn Neua Road, Bangkok
Tel:  +66 (0)2 635 4775 
Nearest BTS: Surasak

Arirang - Sukhumvit:
212/8 Sukhumvit Plaza, Sukhumvit Soi 12, Bangkok
Tel:  +66 (0)2 653 0177 
Nearest BTS: Nana or Asok

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