My appreciation for Korean cuisine has started to flourish and I have never been so curious. I really want to visit New Malden suburbia where, I’ve been told, the best Korean restaurants in the city can be found. But whilst my education is still on beginner’s level, the easy picks in Central London are my safest bet. Like Koba in Fitzrovia and recently, Arang on Golden Square.
And it’s always good to bring a Korean friend around to show you the ropes.
Walking into Arang, a waft of garlicky seafood awakened my nerves. The exhaust fans here aren’t retractable like those in Koba. They’re a little bit more industrial looking and reminded me of those pipes Super Mario would fall in and out of. I knew we would leave the restaurant smelling of food, so I hoped it would be delicious food at least.
Having not had Korean in a while, N was super excited to see dishes from her childhood. The menu, she said, gave her “the feels”.
Miyeokguk (£3.50) is a clear brothy soup made of “miyeok”, a type of seaweed. Frankly, I thought it looked like something one would eat when they’re ill and in dire need of nutrition. N said it was exactly what she had as a child when she had the sniffles. Surprisingly, it was quite tasty – and not as green as I imagined!
The tteokbokki (£9.50) was rather interesting. This is a popular Korean streetfood food made from soft rice cake, fish cake, and gochujang. I did find the rice cakes a bit heavy but the flavour profile was pretty interesting as it was sweet, spicy and a bit salty with the flattened fish cake. It was rather addictive in the end.
Arang’s japchae (£9.50) looked rather plain but it was surprisingly well seasoned. It took me back to the days when my Korean batchmates would share a potluck of dishes, and jap chae was the only dish I recognised and ate. Arang’s offering defo tasted authentic although it was a tad bit oily.
I expected their kimchi game to be strong but I was left quite disappointed. The pickled cabbage had serious underwhelming issues. I actually preferred other accompanying sides (potato salad and beansprouts) although those weren’t the best either.
For the barbecue, we went all beefy and ordered the bulgogi (£9.50) and the bulgalbi (£9.90). Compared to Koba, the meat in Arang had a stronger marinade which gave a nice smokier flavour profile.
I love this stuff.
Koba’s rib-eye may have stolen my Korean BBQ heart, but Arang’s beef short rib (bulgalbi) was definitely a winner for both N & I.
We walked out and though I didn’t particularly enjoy the smell sticking to my clothes and my hair, we were pretty stuffed. Arang’s been around for a while and I’m sure it has its loyal customer base. Service was generally friendly but the ambience was a little average. I thought it was an okay place to go and try an array of Korean dishes sans the “Westernised twist” although I’m not convinced I’ve had the best the city has to offer just yet.