I did something on Saturday night that made me feel like I should hide my head behind a menu…I cheated. I went out with P for a dinner/movie night, and we had a craving for Korean food. Now, when it comes to Korean food, I am true to only one restaurant: Arirang Korean Restaurant in Times Square. Believe it or not, having lived in Kong Kong for 15+years, it’s the only Korean I’ve ever been too (not including a cheapo all-you-can eat place). I have my reasons, namely that it’s one of my best friend’s mothers restaurant and I grew up eating bulgogi, bibimbap, banchan and panjeon at Arirang. And another being that it’s truly amazing food.
But to my horror, Arirang was fully booked!! So I had no choice but to try something else, and we went with Kaya, right across the road. We ordered one marinated BBQ dish (pork) and one without marinade (beef short rib), as well as a seafood pancake (panjeon, my favorite!) and a raw vegetable platter to wrap everything with, and make us feel like we were ordering something healthy!
Bearing in mind that I was scrutinising everything that arrived at the table with suspicious eyes, it was quite a nice meal. I would recommend that you go here for the BBQ only, as it didn’t seem like the other dishes being served up to other tables looked amazing. The non-marinated short rib was very tasty with the perfect amount of fat, and the pork dish was very generous, well marinated, and came with the usual sesame oil, salt and pepper sauce that is just to die for.
Now to the hard-to-avoid comparisons. The seafood pancake came choc-a-bloc with seafood-mainly squid, but it was too thin and undercooked, so it was a bit difficult to dip in the sauce and kept falling apart. The sauce that came with it was simple and effective, but it was there to mask the non-taste of the pancake, all a bit too bland really-big disappointment. Arirang: 5 points for thickness, flavour, variety of ingredients, crispiness and portion size, Kaya: 0.
The banchan (side-dishes) were also a big let down at Kaya. Only 5 were served, and they were so-so, although the sweet potato was quite good. Arirang also wins for variety and quality of their side dishes.
It must be noted that the service as Kaya was very hands on (maybe too much for some). Not great if you’re going for a date, but for P and I it was great as we could talk more instead of cook more. The waitress came to change our BBQ grill once during the meal, helped us cook, and served the pancake to our plates. I wasn’t a big fan of the grill: it was a wire mesh with the open flame underneath, which caused me to burn my arm a little when trying to turn over the meat on the other side of the grill.
At approx. $650 for the two of us (incl. 2 beers), it was an okay amount for a reasonable meal. But at a similar price point, I would still choose Arirang any day, which wins hands down for food quality, variety, portions of banchan, ambience….and certainly last but not least, nostalgic value. A big thank you to Mrs. Lim for feeding us so well for all these years!
N.B. Arirang Korean Restaurant has now moved to it’s new location in W Square in Wan Chai. The space is larger, but apart from that, it is still the same excellent food and service that I love going back to!
6th Floor, 8 Russell Street (Shama Building)
Reservations: +852 2838 9550
3/F, W Square
314-324 Hennessy Road
Reservations: +852 2506 3298