Monday, 3 March 2014

Jung Won Korean BBQ @ Ampang Hilir

If you're into authentic Korean cuisine, you might want to try Jung Won Korean BBQ @ Ampang Hilir.  I was first introduced to this place by my sister-in-law some time ago.  As it has been a while since we last ate here, we decided to head out to this restaurant for dinner one evening.
You can choose to dine inside their restaurant (where it's air-conditioned) or dine alfresco style which is an appealing option if you like to dine amidst lush greenery, cool evening breeze and under wooden-shed structures (with ceiling fans) overlooking a mini pond (with koi fish) and a watermill.  We opted to dine outside, which was probably not the smartest option, seeing that the weather in KL is extremely hot these days.
If you happen to dine here in the evenings, the view when the lights are turned on is even more eye-catching than during daylight.....and there's a resort feel to it!
Let's get to the food.....first, we were served a couple of sauces/condiments to accompany our meal.  There was also a plate of fresh lettuce and one with shredded cabbage, carrot, onions and spring onions.  These are meant to wrap your BBQ meats later on.

Next to come were our drinks...

Fresh Orange Juice @ RM10

Fresh Whole Coconut @ RM7 with a sweet coconut flavour

After a while, came the "banchan" (Korean side dishes) which are synonymous with Korean cuisine.  We were served 7 different types of banchan that evening.  [#Tip: The first pic is not part of the banchan but is supposed to be wrapped with your BBQ meats...but, hey, you can eat it whichever way you like!  And I think the one in the centre is a side salad to one of our orders (as it's a lot bigger, portion wise).]  All the banchan comes free with your meal and you can ask for unlimited refills of any of them.

Of course, we had to order some grilled meats as, after all, this is a Korean BBQ place.  Not to worry, all the meats and seafood are grilled on hot coals at your table top, by the experienced staff to ensure it's done just right.

The first thing we ordered was the Grilled Pork Belly ("Sam Geob Sal") @ RM30 for 180g (3 slices).  The pork belly was quite good when eaten hot, right off the grill, though I wished it was grilled a tad more to caramelise the fatty parts.
We also ordered the Grilled Marinated Salmon ("Yeon-eo-Gu-E") @ RM32.  I felt it was quite pricey for just 1 pc of salmon but the impeccable taste of the well marinated salmon (a bit like teriyaki sauce) more than made up for the hefty price tag.  The salmon was grilled to perfection while the flesh remained really soft and juicy (probably one of the most delicate salmon I've come across).  This was excellent and well worth the money.
Another 'must-order' is the traditional Korean Chicken Soup with Ginseng ("Sam Gye Tang") @ RM32.  This soup is robust with chicken flavour (what do you expect) as the soup is made with a small whole young chicken (spring chicken, I reckon) and you can eat the chicken meat as it's still smooth and tender.  Also, the ginseng taste is subtle and not overpowering.  Apart from ginseng, the soup is also boiled with red dates, fresh chestnut ("foong lut"), whole garlic cloves and ginger and finally sprinkled with some chopped spring onions.  The rice at the bottom (more like a porridge texture) makes drinking the steaming hot soup really comforting...this is a really good and healthy soup. 

Since ginseng and ginger are considered 'hot' spices, you'll detox and sweat after drinking this hot bowl of goodness and this was about the time I began to regret sitting outside.  [#Note: Imagine sipping this hot steaming soup on a cold, rainy day...what a feeling, absolutely warm and cosy....and luckily (just around then) it started to rain...thank God!]
If there's one complaint, it would be the size of the soup (they should consider making a smaller portion with maybe 1/2 a chicken).  With a whole chicken, the soup is more ideal for 4 - 5 persons.
We ended with an order of Bibimbap @ RM20, not because I fancy it tremendously (though I do eat it), but because it's such a signature Korean dish and no Korean meal is complete without it.  A bibimbap, which literally means 'mixed rice', is a bowl of steamed rice topped with a variety of seasoned vegetables, raw or fried egg and some kind of a chilli paste. 

I didn't like the Bibimbap as I found the rice very mushy and the vegetables were cut too thick, but then again I've never liked Bibimbap to start with.  [#Note: I know this is one of the most well known and beloved Korean dishes but I simply can't bring myself to like it.  I guess the saying 'one man's meat is another man's poison rings true'!]

At the end of the meal, the staff served us some fresh watermelon and a Korean barley-with-a-hint-of-ginger drink (on the house) to cool down (I guess) after the 'heaty' food or to cleanse your palate.  Whatever the reason was, the drink was a welcome as it was refreshing and I liked it very much (could have drank more if I wasn't so full already).

My Personal Opinion

This is a good place to enjoy Korean BBQ and what sets it apart from other Korean restaurants is its garden-like surroundings for a different dining experience.  The prices here are a bit on the pricey side but looking at the quality of the ingredients, it's understandable.

Overall, I would say the food is decent (especially the BBQ meats) and the quality of the food is pretty good (nothing like the awful, unfresh, low quality food of Seoul Garden).  But I must admit I've not eaten enough Korean food to make a fair assessment (as it is one of my least favourite cuisines).

Likes:  I especially liked the Grilled Salmon (so delicate) and Korean Chicken Soup with Ginseng (a real 'feel good' soup).

Dislikes:  As much as I like the outdoor ambience, it can get quite hot especially during this hot spell that we're experiencing in KL lately!

Jung Won Korean BBQ Restaurant
255 Jalan Ampang Hilir
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-4257 5555

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