When I was a kid, there was a brief fashion for indoor fireworks. I remember one that looked like a wiggly worm made of cigarette ash, sparklers the length of lolly sticks, and some other damp squibs that left scorch marks on the table.
22a Brougham Place,
Dinner for four, excluding drinks,
I feel the same about barbecue restaurants. Cooking and eating al-fresco is one thing, but isn’t doing the same indoors called making your own dinner, albeit with the novelty factor of being able to sit down while stirring?
You might not be able to tell from the outside (as the windows are usually steamed up), but this Korean eatery is big on the indoor barbecue (or gogigui) and there are electric griddles built into some of the tables.
It’s also BYOB. The corkage could be £3, though the waitress assured us that it was £130 (bit of a language barrier here). I was a bit scared to take the financial risk, so ordered a syrupy can of Rice Dream (£2) instead.
The menu is as extensive as the phone book for a smallish commuter town. From a choice of 13 starters, we shared three, including deep fried tofu (£4.80), which came as four polystyrene-coloured planks of thinly-battered bean curd, with a good sweet soy and spring onion dip.
Their dumplings (£4.80) are available in a choice of four varieties – vegetable, pork, kimchi or deep-fried. “Surprise us with a mixture,” we said to the waiter, while undoing the top buttons of our starched shirts. We received four slippery parcels, each of which was steamed and stuffed with hot and spicy bright red kimchi. Oh well, they were decent enough.
According to one of my dining partners, the kimchi jeon (£6) pancake, divided into neat squares, tasted like “a novelty crisp flavour”. I concede. It was very snack foodie and, thus, disappeared speedily.
While we scarfed these dishes, our griddle slowly heated up for our first main course – chicken bulgogi (£11). We dropped the poultry strips onto the black surface and they fizzled like wet Catherine Wheels, then we ramped the heat up. Long pause (you know what they say, a watched bulgogi never boils). Twenty minutes or so later, and the cooked pieces of chook tasted decent enough, in their garlic and sesame oil marinade.
However they were not quite as marvellous as our favourite dish – LA galbi (£12) with six beef ribs in a salty and charred meaty essence.
The tang soo yuk (£9), or sweet, sour and crispy pork – a Chinese dish that’s big in Korea – featured nibs of meat in a pale and blistered batter, with a jammy sauce over the top and a nest of crispy flat noodles. Naughty and rather nice, as was the oh jing uh bukkeum (£8.80), or squid in chilli sauce with vegetables. In a vinegary hot sauce, carrots, spring greens and onions were being grappled by soft tentacles.
The galbi tang (£11), or beef spare rib soup – served in a cast iron pot – was the comforting taste of home for somebody (but not us). It featured a slightly feral-tasting semi-opaque broth of bloated meat, with transparent noodle threads, mushrooms and slivers of veg.
We weren’t going to bother with pudding, as there was only grapefruit sorbet (£5) or ice-cream (£5) on offer. Sadly, the high price of these options did some reverse psychology on our lentil-sized brains. If they’re that expensive, they must be extra special, right? Wrong.
There was a sundae glass clagged with chocolate ice-cream, with a walnut-sized frozen solid pastry on the top. And another container that was filled with an OK (but not a fiver’s worth of OK) sorbet.
Hmm, maybe skip dessert. However, go to Ong Gie if you like indoor barbecues – as many do. There was much laughter and beaming at nearby tables, as they flipped their bulgogi meat onto the grills. It was like an advertisement for Uncle Ben’s stir fry sauce.
I prefer the stuff that’s cooked by the chef in their kitchen. That’s my idea of fireworks.