Thursday, 12 July 2018

BBQ Ma Eul Cup Bab @ Damasara Uptown

I've heard positive comments about this Korean BBQ place, BBQ Ma Eul Cup Bab @ Damansara Uptown, that has been around for more than two years now.  We arrived at prime dinner time and managed to snap up the last table in the air-conditioned dining space inside.

There are a lot more alfresco seats outside (both in front and at the side of the restaurant) but you may have to deal with the heat and humidity.  On hindsight, it wasn't that much cooler inside either.

Seriously, I can't understand why many Korean BBQ joints don't make the place colder with air-conditioners at full blast coz the heat from the charcoal BBQ makes the dining experience really uncomfortable.  That's probably why I don't eat Korean BBQs all that often as I end up sweating throughout my meal, a scenario I'm definitely not fond of.

Inside the restaurant, there's this cute mural of Bart Simpson (of all people) giving you a guide on how best to enjoy Korean BBQ.  Seriously? ;)  Strange to me...unless he has Korean lineage I'm not aware of...kakaka!

Anyway, once our orders were placed, the banchan (Korean side dishes) arrived, all refillable.  There was a selection of 8 types which included kimchi, pickled radish, spinach, fish cake, potato, japchae, soybean sprouts and anchovies.

Even with our family-of-four (my mother-in-law included), we couldn't finish the banchan given (so I'm quite amazed at how some people can go through many refills of banchan!).

The only refill we did go for were the spinach and radish...and that's when I spotted this fried eggplant at the self-service banchan refill station.  If you happen to be there when they bring them out, freshly fried, then the batter should be somewhat crispy, otherwise it'd be soft.

Besides the banchan, we were also given a Korean Salad with lettuce, mung bean sprouts and scallions tossed in a spiced paste.  I enjoyed this salad very much.

On top of that, a big bowl of fresh lettuce is given to wrap the grilled meats in if you choose to do so but I don' I like to eat my meat unwrapped.

I'm sorry I have no photos of the plates of raw meat we ordered as the server piled them one on top of the other because of the limited table space (+ she was also very quick to throw them on the grill).  That's my other grouse, the limited table space, besides the hot environment when it comes to eating Korean BBQ.  The tables are always so cramped without enough space to accommodate the grill top, all the side dishes and our other orders.  A table meant for four is only suitable for two (to eat comfortably), IMHO! >_<

Condiments include a bean paste dip, fresh garlic and green chillies.  This bean paste dip was alright as long as it's not the red chilli paste (gochujang) which I don't really like.

But my favourite is the sesame oil + salt dip.  I prefer to eat my meats with this (especially with non-marinated meats) but they tend to give you so little of it.  You can refill the bean paste dip on your own (and take how ever much you want) but if you want seconds of the sesame oil-salt dip, you have to ask for it.  I asked and was given another two small plates with minute amounts of how many times do you think I can dip my meat in it before it finishes again.  Haiz, I don't know why this dip is so precious.

There is a combination of set menus as well as a la carte orders.  We ordered Set 3 @ RM59 (for 2 - 3 persons) with sliced pork belly, pork shoulder and grilled baby octopus.

This set gets you 2 1/2 (yes, two and a half, not three!) strips of sliced pork belly and two pieces of pork shoulder.

The grilled baby octopus, marinated in a spiced paste, was brought to us already cooked.  Slightly chewy, slightly crunchy, slightly spicy.

The pork belly and pork shoulder caramelising on the grill top over hot charcoal.  I find Korean BBQ to be one of the hardest things to photograph simply because the hanging exhaust hood always casts a shadow on the food...haiz.

The pork belly was dumped on top of the plate of grilled baby octopus.  They couldn't even afford to serve it on a separate plate because of the lack of space on the table.  The pork belly, with a good marbling, was sufficiently tender and juicy.

The pork shoulder being cut into slices by their staff who did all the grilling for us.  So, you just need to sit back and enjoy your meal.

The pork shoulder was a much leaner cut, understandably it was meatier and wasn't as tender.  And, of course, it got dumped onto the same plate that contained our pork belly and baby octopus.

From the a la carte menu, we placed an additional order for Pork Neck (hangjeongsal) @ RM25 as I've always enjoyed eating pork neck.  Unfortunately, the ones we got that evening were a bit too fatty for me (I've seen not so fatty ones on other blogs).

Well, guess landed on the same plate again...our one and only plate for all the cooked meats at the table! :P

We also ordered the Spicy Grilled Pork Belly (gochujang samgyeopsal) @ RM26 served with a cheese dip. This was not grilled table-side but cooked in the kitchen and brought to us which was a blessing in disguise, otherwise it might have gotten dumped onto the same plate again.  For those who like their meat with a more robust flavour, they will prefer this one as they've been marinated in gochujang.

A little deviation from all the meat was an order of Grilled Mackerel @ RM25 served with soy and wasabi. When the fish arrived, we thought we got lucky with two whole fish but soon realised the fish was sliced in half lengthwise...haha! >.<

Well grilled and fragrant, it was good eaten with a squeeze of lemon and a dip into the soy (I removed the wasabi, of course).  My mother-in-law relished this the most probably because she's not that much of a meat person.  We also did not order any beef since she doesn't like to eat beef.

Finally, what's a meal without some carbs?  We just had to get the Spicy Rice Balls @ RM18 that came topped with copious amounts of absolutely fragrant, crispy seaweed in a big ass steel bowl.  A pair of plastic gloves are provided to keep your hands clean while you mix the contents thoroughly to form rice balls out of the warm and sticky Japanese rice with spiced sauce.

Well, apparently, that's what everybody is supposed to do with it (as I've seen on blogs and their Facebook). You can then put it on the grill to get it crusty and charred.  So, I followed suit and formed rice balls out of them but, in my haste to do it (so that I could get rid of the big ass bowl that was sitting on limited table space), the rice wasn't very compact.  I was practically holding onto the rice balls until the server brought me a small plate to put them on.

On hindsight, if I knew that the rice balls would stick to the grill and fall apart when I tried to remove them coz the rice was sticky (in the first place) and not well compacted, I wouldn't have bothered to make them into rice balls (+ it also didn't result in a charred and crusty exterior which would have made them taste better) :P

Actually, as I was mixing the rice, I realised that the rice was really warm.  I should have just scooped the rice onto our plates and eat it while it's still warm for best results (I think I would have enjoyed it even more).  Lesson learnt.  That said, this was what I ended up liking the most here...a must-order! ^o^

There's no complimentary tea or anything, just plain water.....and they give you a whole jug.  We needed a second jug as the dining environment was just too hot and humid.

My Personal Opinion

If meat or Korean BBQ is your thing and you have no qualms about eating and sweating at the same time, then you should definitely consider this place for the price factor (first) and taste (second).

There are very few places where you can get a meal of 7 items that's able to feed 4 people sufficiently for around RM150! O_o  In fact, three small-eaters (or those on a tight budget) could possibly have a meal for RM20 with just the RM59 set and lots of banchan! ;)

As far as I'm concerned, there's very little to distinguish between the taste of these Korean BBQs and unlimited banchan.  Perhaps, the slight noticeable difference would be in the marination of the meats (and if you're ordering non-marinated meats, it makes no difference) and maybe the dipping sauce.

So, wear as little as possible.....and indulge in a sizzling hot 'affair'! ^_~

BBQ Ma Eul Cup Bab
No 4 Ground Floor
Jalan SS21/39 Damansara Utama
47400 Petaling Jaya
Tel: 03-7732 9955


  1. I know this restaurant as it was formerly my favourite bakery shop and I often eat ice cream next door! I noticed the crowds which included Koreans therefore I was convinced of its high quality. It is the heat and sweaty faces of the crowd that made me shy away. I guess I am a Putera Lilin.

    Thanks a lot for sharing so much about this place and I will definitely bookmark this place as I am a big fan of Korean food. That Spicy Grilled Pork Belly and Grilled Mackerel are my favourites too. I have not heard of that rice balls and they sound interesting to try.

    I have booked my hotel next year for a week's reunion in Seoul just to eat and get drunk with all my former Opah college mates. Just thoughts of them and soju bottles are giving me goose bumps now. LOL

    1. Wow, your mates' schedules can really be booked ahead (I'm sure you're looking forward to the reunion). My friends, on the other hand, even booking for a meet-up a month in advance can sometimes lead to cancellations. :(

      I guess I'm also a Puteri Lilin as you put it, that's why I'll have BBQ only once in a while. Based on experience, it's not as hot and sweaty in a Japanese yakiniku compared to a Korean BBQ! ;)

    2. My Korean room mate advised me to stay at Itaewon instead of my choice of Gangnam. That's because the partying and shops open for 24 hours and suits party animals like me. He forgot that I am no longer a wild party animal now. So I just casually checked hotels at Itaewon and got a shock that many had been fully booked for early 2019! So I just booked mine since it is free cancellation.

    3. In some ways, I think you'll still have that little bit of party animal in you. That's your nature, you may be older now but you wouldn't forget how to 'party'! ;)

    4. I guess you are right. Friends from primary school days do not change much in character as even matured adults today. We still joked like kids. Ha ha...

  2. Love it when BBQ is done by the staff, just sit there n eat. Korean dishes also offers the most variety in one single meal that isn't involving buffet, isn't it?

    1. I guess so...if you're a fan of banchan and can eat plates after plates of it. For me, I hardly ever refill my banchan. :P

  3. My family love Koreean BBQ and the one we always visit near my neighbourhood serves more than 12 banchan! And the staff do the grilling outside the restaurant/in the kitchen, so we have no problem on smelly clothes after meal.

    1. I think here the staff also do some of the grilling outside (otherwise they can't cope with the crowd). Wow, 12 banchan is a lot...8 is already quite a lot! Like that, you don't have to order much meat...just eat the banchan...full already! ;D

    2. I just went back to that restaurant last Sunday and the banchan is now reduced to 6 only but they were giving 20% off for the meat :P

    3. Actually, 6 banchan is fine with me since I don't eat that much banchan. I'd rather have discount on the meat! ^_~

  4. ooo, those DIY rice balls are interesting, i don't think i've tried them. i've probably only had korean barbecue 20 to 30 times in my life, which is what i imagine some fans would easily do in a year - some of the factors you mentioned are why i'm not a fan, but i'm also not a fan of japanese yakiniku either - guess i don't have the barbecuing instinct! :)

    1. Now, you don't need the BBQ instinct as most places (those I've been to at least) gives you the option to DIY or let them do it for you (both Japanese and Korean BBQ). I can understand the novelty of doing it yourself (those who prefer DIY do it for the fun of it and not too bothered on how well it's cooked) but, like you, I prefer them to do it so that the meats are cooked properly! ^_*

  5. I bet Bart Simpson really does enjoy a good BBQ ;-)

  6. Aiya! I have forgotten about this place. Been there only once for lunch. Yes, the space is small, it used to be occupied by a bakery. Since it has been around for a while, I guess they must be doing fine and your review seem positive. So I must bring my partner here for one of our Friday date nites hee..hee...

    1. Yes, please do. They've got spicy rice balls to please your 'rice man'...hehehe....but you may have to break your 'no carbs' rule and share this with him (as the portion is too much for one). And I won't bother to make them into balls! ^_~


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