We do love ourselves a gogigui – a Korean-style grilling of beef, pork, chicken, or other types of meat prepared table-side and eaten with the accompanying banchan (side dishes). While Korean barbecue staples are the bulgogi (marinated grilled beef) and galbi (short ribs marinated in Korean soy sauce), we put our favourite Korean restaurants to the test by comparing their most decadent grilled item – the pork belly.
E!ght Korean BBQ | Photo: Deborah Tan
Hearty servings of meat and vegetables
The service at Bornga is really nothing to shout about. The food, however, saves the day. Meat is cut to the right thickness ensuring they don’t take too long to cook or get cooked so quickly they don't dry out. At $22 per serving, the pork belly here is slightly more than the serving at Gangnam Style BBQ (third entry below), and we love that they serve a whole tray of fresh vegetables – most Korean BBQ restaurants in Singapore give you a small basket. We also love the haemul pajeon ($22), a seafood pancake that is packed with vegetables, onions, squid and shrimps.
Bornga | Address: The Star Vista, #02-24, 1 Vista Exchange Green, and VivoCity | Tel: 66944696 | Opening hours: Daily 11.30am-10pm
Meat marinated eight different ways
Pork-belly lovers will love the signature eight-colours set ($98) here, which can feed up to four diners. Thick-cut Berkshire pork belly are marinated eight different ways (we love the wine- and garlic-flavoured ones) and elegantly presented on a long tray that allows you to eat them in a pre-determined order. The set also comes with a bean paste stew and scorched rice soup, making it a value-for-money meal. If you still have space for more, don’t missthe smoked pork belly ($12 a piece) – it's pricey, but worth it for its delicate, smoked-wood nose notes.
E!ght Korean BBQ | Address: The Central,#02-79/90, 6 Eu Tong Seng Street | Tel: 62222159 | Opening hours: Daily 11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30-10.30pm
Communal dining, great service
Patrons are seated on communal tables, although each group will get their own barbecue grill. This place definitely knows how to make a good first impression – the charcoal makes an arrival in huge glowing pieces. While the food and service are great, Gangnam Style BBQ charges the most out of the restaurants we tested for this review, in terms of portion-to-price ratio (two slices of pork belly for $22). Thankfully, the smooth steamed egg custard that comes as one of the side dishes is always a treat. Not that the grill won’t already be.
Gangnam Style BBQ | Address: The Rail Mall, 396 Upper Bukit Timah Road | Tel: 68779929 | Opening hours: Mon-Fri 6pm-2am; Sat noon-2pm, 6pm-2am; Sun 6-10pm
Meat grilled along side an egg custard at Wang Dae Bak Korean BBQ Restaurant | Photo: Deborah Tan
Good value for money and excellent kimchi
This place is best in terms of value-for-money and food flavours. The kimchi here is also the best out of the Korean restaurants we have tried in Singapore so far. The pork belly, $15 for three pieces, has just the right mix of fatty and lean meat. Wrap a piece up in a lettuce leaf with some kimchi, bean sauce, and garlic, and you get a full kick of flavours. We also love the bhalgan dai ji ($20). Called the "red pig", this is pork marinated in a red sauce that tastes suspiciously like the Chinese char siew (barbecued pork) sauce after grilling.
Red Pig Korean Restaurant | Address: 93 Amoy Street | Tel: 62207176 | Opening hours: Mon-Fri noon-2.30pm, 6-11pm; Sat & Sun 6-11pm
Thickly sliced pork and crunchy chicken gizzards
For $20, you get three thick pieces of red-wine-marinated pork belly. While the wine does not make any discernible difference in terms of taste, the meat is nonetheless juicy and without that "gamey" flavour. There is a mini-moat around the grill in which the server pours an egg custard mix as part of the banchan. The restaurant fills up quickly, especially on weekend nights, so we strongly recommend making a reservation before heading over. This may be in part due to the crunchy and addictive chicken gizzards ($18).
Wang Dae Bak Korean BBQ Restaurant | Address: 98 Amoy Street and Cross Street | Tel: 62260450 | Opening hours: Mon-Sat 10.30am-2.30pm, 5.30-11pm
Deborah Tan is a founder of Material World. After 10 years of working in magazines Cleo and Cosmopolitan Singapore, she is now a freelance writer and editor. She likes liquid eyeliners, bright red lipsticks, tattoos, rock & roll, Mad Men, Suits and can never say "no" to a big, juicy steak.