Asian blood runs through my veins. I can pick up a grain of rice with chop sticks, I love karaoke and I’m pretty quick at doing Mathematics as long as it involves single digits in a plus or minus equation. And yet there’s one thing I don’t enjoy: a group meal involving huddling over a communal cooking source, table crammed with plates and bowls and small dishes with elbows jostling into each other’s personal space. Steamboat is one such occasion, and the other is Korean BBQ. There’s a tendency to eat too much and you always walk out of the restaurant in dire need of a shower.
But still, loyalty runs deep and so, when Spot invited us for a get together at Chang Go, I braced myself and with the deep numbing joint aches signalling an impending cold, I piled on thermals and a thick ski jacket, hopped onto a tram and headed towards the city.
Famous for its 8-flavour pork belly, Chang Go has developed a bit of a fan club. Ingeniously, Spot managed to secure an early booking at 6pm, allowing us to hurdle over the gathering crowd, right into the techno-doof beats and smoky depths of the restaurant.
Our dinner that night consisted a small party of four: Spot, Fakebooo, The Angmoh and myself. We got stuck into dinner quickly, ordering the pork belly set and the beef combo. Each came with 2 serves of rice, a stew, an array of meats, and of course, as with any Korean meal, a seemingly limitless serve of banchan. The kimchi here is really nice, strong with chilli and well-balanced with a sweet tinge to counter the usual piquancy of the dish.
First up, the pork belly. This was served on an elongated platter, with each marinade inscribed into the wood. It does look like a massive serve of meat, but once cooked, shrinks down rather significantly. The hot grill is set an angle, allowing the copious amount of oil to drain into a collecting tub. The set up even came with a little scraper, made up of a wedge of radish speared onto a stick. The Angmoh took his manly BBQ duties seriously and wielded the radish like a gladiator about to joust. But back to the meat – the 8 flavours consist of plain, wine, garlic, ginseng, herb, curry, miso and red pepper paste. Amongst the flavours, it was ubiquitous that the wine and miso-marinated pork belly were well-received. I thought the garlic and ginseng ones were pretty good too. All of us frowned at the curry and herb marinades. Fakebooo remarked that the curry seasoning tasted like that of Twisties and I personally thought the rosemary did not complement the pork.
As soon as the pork belly platter was cleared, the cooking plate got replaced with a grill and the beef was swiftly set down. Our beef combo included premium beef rib, top side beef and flank beef. The latter two come marinated in a slightly sweetish sauce. We all liked the non-marinated beef rib best.
Did Chang Go change my opinion of Korean BBQ? I’m afraid I’m still going to be hesitant about it in future, preferring alternatives where food that has already been cooked is set down before me, and I can leave without then having to shampoo my hair twice. That said, the experience at Chang Go was not unpleasant. Waiters were attentive and walked about frequently to clear plates, top up banchan and keep an eye on the cooking meats. The quality of pork and beef are very decent, with the pork lacking that potential pungent “porky” taste, and the beef having good flavours, probably from the use of grain-fed cattle. The company completes the experience and I reckon my cold got dispelled by good hot food with loads of anti-oxidant rich garlic and chilli.