When my Korean friend asked me out for dinner at the famed Bornga in Vivocity, I knew I could not refuse an authentic Korean dining experience. This was so even at the expense of breaking my self-imposed one-dinner-per-week rule. It was worth it. Bornga delivered delicious authentic Korean food. It was a wonderful evening with my girlfriends. Although on the pricey side and the service was either slow or crap, the food more than made up for the flaws. Presentation was beautiful and big in flavours; it was so worth the juice cleanse the next day.
We left the ordering to my Korean friend to which she started with two portions each of Bornga’s signature meat; the Woo Samgyup (a patented recipe from Korean celebrity chef Paik Jong Won) and Yangnyum Dwaeji Galbi (thicker slabs of pork ribs marinated with a dark brown special house sauce),
A long imposing tray of fresh vegetables was immediately placed on our table. The green-obssessed-me rejoiced!
A metal bucket of hot burning ember charcoals was next placed in anticipation of the meats.
Shortly thereafter, our first plate of Woo Samgyup arrived. Our tummies finally got to work! These thinly-sliced US beef short plates were seasoned in Bornga’s secret marinade. So beautifully marbled were they that I mistook them for Pork Belly slices! Oops… Nevertheless the meat were cooked for us and the smoky grilled beef smell was intoxicating. It awakened our appetites immediately!
Then three big plates of what-I-thought-were-Banchan (sides dishes) arrived and I immediately started picking at them but my Korean friend did not do the same. Silvered kimchi radishes, thinly-sliced spring onions in a slightly spicy marinade, and a green salad in a subtle sesame marinade.
It turns out the “side dishes” were condiments used be eaten with the barbecued meat. Grab a big piece of lettuce, dunk it into the special sauce, place however much meat and side dishes as you desire then like a piece of sushi, eat THE WHOLE THING IN ONE BITE. Kind of like barbecued meat poppers! This took a while to get used but as I learnt from my friend, it was all in the art of wrapping and rolling into a mouth-sized ball. Clean hands was mandatory! Slow eating with little bites, not required.
NOT PICTURED WAS the Yangnyum Dwaeji Galbi (thicker slabs of pork ribs marinated with a dark brown special house sauce), unfortunately this was overcooked for us with the texture more like Bak Kwa – not appetizing at all. But we did have another lady cook a smaller batch for us later and it tasted much better with its tender juicy well-seasoned meat.
Next up was the Haemul Pajeon (Seafood and Scallion Pancake). This is a must-order for me in every Korean restaurant as is a true mark of the standard of a Korean Restaurant.
Bornga, I hand it to you, you reignited my love for Haemul Pajeon with your interpretation. This pancake arrived on our table on a hot plate looking absolutely inviting. Thinner than usual, well-browned especially around the edges, with finely-sliced red chillis and spring onions scattered around, cut into wedges and served with a cake slice. The pancake was tender soft containing generous amount of finely sliced seafood and the edges more charred and extremely crispy. Left longer on the hot plate and the bottom would be even crispier (no soggy bottoms catastrophe will ever happen here.) HELLO HEAVEN in my mouth and brilliantness of the hot plate!
My Korean friend ordered Naeng Myun. I was initially apprehensive. Cold noodles… Mmmh… But my friend insisted we try and when I saw her earnestness in serving us each a bowl, I could not refuse. Boy did I regret my initial negative reactions. This house specialty contained chewy thin buckwheat noodles topped with thinly-sliced small round cucumbers, paper thin slices of radish cut into squares, more paper thin beef and half a hard boiled egg. The biggest surprise was the silvered pears that provided an appreciative sweet contrast to the savoury beef-based broth filled with crushed ice. I gobbled up my little bowl like a little pig. What a seemingly simple but satisfyingly bowl of noodles!
Bornga was good but with my Korean friend, an experience! I will be back, I am sure!