Bibimbap is a favourite of mine. The elegance of the dish (which is really rice and other bits mixed together) makes it a hearty treat. This is one of my favourite little places in the city, and its about time I headed back for a proper review.
I’m not Korean.
It actually started with a mate of mine, who then told another dude at work, and that dude broadcasted it to the rest of the company, and now, people are absolutely convinced that I am in fact Korean.
Situated conveniently just off carnaby street, behind the dark tinted windows, is a usually packed-out restaurant with a 20 minute waiting time (on weekends anyway). I went on a Friday night, and it was surprisingly empty, tables were immediately available. Not a good sign – does that mean standards have dipped? I wouldnt like to think so, because this place really is a favourite of mine.
Alright, you have to order this sweet rice punch. It’s a cloudy drink with rice grains (£3), and it tasted much like a sweet rice pudding that’s been passed through a strainer. Really yummy, there’s also an ‘alcoholic’ version – a white rice wine (£3) – milky in appearance, supposedly very traditional but it tasted like vodka spiked sour milk, which didn’t quite agree with me.
Ok let’s now get to the menu, firstly its huge, literally and physically. There’s appetisers, traditional specials, BBQ (very good) , rice & noodles (I think) and so goes the list. The highlight of a Korean meal (for me at least) is the BBQ hot plate which sits in the middle of the table, where one’s order of meat or seafood is cooked in front of you. While it’s a fairly amusing gimmick on the first few visits; I prefer the food cooked in the kitchen. Don’t really fancy smelling like beef bulgogi for a few days… having said that, and I’m not sure if it’s a psychological thing, but food somehow tastes better when its cooked in front of me. I really don’t know why, maybe its more sizzly? Maybe I’m more emotionally involved seeing the meat go brown? Who knows eh.
On to dish numero uno, this is the glass noodles off the traditional Korean section.
I always order this one whenever I eat at Myung Ga, and I love the bouncy, floury and wholly appetising nature of the noodles. It carried a spicy edge to it, and with a pepper, carrots and mushroom medley for taste. The highlight though is the starchiness of the noodles itself, it was easy to digest, albeit alittle oily. I was glad that this dish still held up to expectation after so many years, it’s not quite as amazing when I first had it, but it’s still formidable.
Next up, is a spicy seafood hotpot.
The first sip was confusingly mild. While there was instant pepper searing my throat, there was a noticeable lack of rich seafood flavours… or any flavours for that matter, perhaps a little too watered down. On the other hand, there were an abundance of fish, prawns and mussels tucked away within the little pot. It really looked like a hearty soup, with lots of fish, but the soup itself was quite a letdown. I couldnt tell what fish they used, but it was quite abit fishy – in a way it was a good thing, since I didnt quite taste much else.
Ahh, right then, my favourite part of the meal: BBQ Beef. I opted for the thinly sliced tenderloin, with sesame oil and crushed garlic. Normally this dish is cooked on the table, but I opted for it to be cooked in the kitchen. Hmm…. There is a sesame and white pepper oily slick that envelops the meat, and the sizzling taste pops the moment you eat it. A sweetish garlic flavour then takes over, followed by a full smokey grillness that is reminiscent of well, a really good barbecue. Personally, I would have preferred the meat to be abit more raw than they were – it was just a tad too well done, and verging on being too dry. I must say – it applies in this case as well – while the flavours were ample, they didnt wow like it’s supposed to, when its cooked on the table. I don’t know, maybe Im a sucker for gimmicks, but it seemingly works for this sort of dish.
And finally we get to the bibimbup. I opted for the pork option, with an egg on top. At this point I’ll note that the whole restaurant is filled with sesame oil aromas, ahh… its a very good thing.
The dish is prepared in front of me (woohoo) and I opted for a mild chilli paste instead of the full whack. The waiter douses two teaspoons full of miso soup, a dollop of the chilli paste, and off we go. You can hear the rice sizzle as he stirs, and the pot is so hot that, the egg is cooked on mixing.
The rice was alittle bland, the pot did not impart the signature sizzlingly bibimbups are famous for, and there were hardly any crunchy rice bits, it was a little too ‘wet’ and I really should have opted for more chilli paste because flavour was severely lacking. A little dissapointing really, its the first time the bibimbup has managed to disappoint me, but there really wasn’t much to write home about; this dish was far too bland.
And I say, I say..
I have had far better on previous occasions, and this trip was flatter than usual. Don’t get me wrong though, the gist of it was still there, I still enjoyed the meal, but it wasn’t quite as good as I remembered it to be. I don’t know what it was, I think on the whole it was missing an oomph, a wow factor that sizzlingness of ‘Big’ food wasn’t there; this was just pedestrian. Ok let’s try another analogy; it was like one of those rare occasions when Federer was having an off day, and Andy Murray overpowering him.
Something like that. A little disappointed, but I would still go back. Perhaps not on a hot summer’s day, but maybe a cooler winter’s night.
The Gist of It
Myung Ga Official Site
1 Kingly St
Soho, W1B 5PA
(020) 7734 8220
Verdict: A little flat, tasted good, but not jawdropping. Meal came to £46 for two, I still think its worth a trip, but can be expensive depending on how much meat you order.