Went as part of an Open Rice tasting session group for dinner. We've been to a couple of Korean BBQ restaurants in Singapore now, but always felt that the ones in Malaysia offered better value in terms of quality and service. Not anymore.
The sight that immediately greeted us was a decor unlike most other Korean BBQ restaurants we've been to such as Sampo (see our Sampo review, lah), which tended to border more on the traditional. The first "Oh My Goodness!" of Oh Neul Han Jeon (ONHJ). Here's what you can expect:
As you can see, ONHJ smacks of a blend of the old and new, but the boss, Will, assured us that the food was authentic - which we would stamp a "double confirm" to. This brings us to the second "Oh My Goodness!".
Korean foodies will know the near-unlimited heaps of side dishes that come with each order, as well as the variety. At ONHJ, we must say that they don't disappoint in quality and uniqueness (not your usual fare of kelp, ikan billis, etc.) although the variety was a little toned down. The sides that found our way into our bellies included steam egg, two versions of kimchi(yes kimchi lovers, we're not talking about different vegetables like cucumber and cabbage, but two different kimchi styles), and tofu (there were also marinated onion chunks, but we didn't really fancy these). Mind you, when we say that these weren't the usual side dish fare, we don't mean the base ingredients per se, but are talking about the preparation and style. The bottomline was that the quality and uniqueness of the side dishes more than made up for the lack of variety. But the side dishes, as they were meant to be, were to be mere supporting casts to the main highlights: BBQ meat and other delectable mains.
We were treated to hearty potions of Galbisal (Premium Beef Short Ribs), Woosamgyeop (Thin Sliced Beef Brisket Marinated in "Secret Sauce" -> we tried digging this out of Will like the interoggators we were but failed miserably), Yangnyeom Moksal (Marinated Pork Collar Neck with Soy Sauce), Haemul Pajeon (Korean Seafood Pancake), Jokbal (Pork Knuckle Braised in Soy Sauce), and Kimchi Jjigae (Kimchi Soup with Pork and Ramen).
What made the meat grilling experience so different was that the grills ran on infra-red heating units instead of your conventional stoves (or charcoal stoves at some places we've been to). Will explained that this helps the meat cook more evenly and also at the right temperature since the unit automatically switches off upon reaching a certain temperature after a duration of time. Although he added that this helps removes smoke (and therefore fulfilling the important task of not making you smell like a piece of grilled meat), we still ended up smelling like Galbisal, allowing us to recapture the scents of an otherwise fantastic meal as late as 11pm after reaching home. Regardless, the food and side dishes deserved the third "Oh My Goodness!" of ONHJ (when your none-pork knuckle eating other half wolves down fat, skin, and everything else save bones of said knuckle, you know it's that good).
As usual, the proof is in the pudding and the sizzle is in the meat:
Note to Mushrooms: Galbisal Grilling in Progress
Jokbal that doesn't Joke
Yangnyeom Moksal Mamma Mia!!
Will, deserved the fourth "Oh My Goodness!" not only for his hospitality, but generosity as well - having personally saw to the grilling, demonstrating the craft of savouring the Yangnyeom Moksal with wrappings of lettuce and bean paste sauce, and also offering us cups of Soju which he professed "complements excellently with the meat" akin to a perfect mariage of Pinot Noir and sweet meats. "Yah what, it's a food tasting session mah", is what everyone might say, but it's actually pretty easy to differentiate service from the heart from paid obsequious service solely meant to cast the restaurant in a good light. Will's service was consistently good, probably stemming from a well-placed pride in his establishment. We actually tested him out by shamelessly asking for more helpings of side dishes and soju pourings, but he aced them all. Lastly, we observed how he treated other customers that were not part of the food tasting and saw that the same service levels extended to them. Even if he really did "dress to impress" (which we didn't think so, of course), he would have deserved full marks for such meticulosity.
The fifth and final "Oh My Goodness!" went to Estelle, our host, and the great company we had at our table. As the saying goes, "Money can't buy you everything". Truth be told, we've dined in some of the fanciest outfits in Singapore (Au Jardin, Lawry's, Salt Grill and Sky Bar, among others), but the whole social atmosphere we experienced at ONHJ was priceless literally. It felt like a home thanksgiving meal that warmed the heart as much as the grill did.
We ended the session on as high a note as we had when we first started, maybe even more. Although we had an additional "Oh My Goodness!" in the form of a $50 parking ticket (yah, parking at Telok Ayer is crazy), the five pleasant "Oh My Goodness!" experiences truly made this one of the finest pancies in our repetoire of foodie fancies.
Five thumbs up!!
Date of Visit: Nov 23, 2012 Other Ratings: