Bibimbap: a signature Korean dish which literally means mixed rice. Gorgeous, isn't it?
My love for Korean food stemmed from my love for Korean dramas. I don't watch those overly melodramatic ones wherein a person (usually the protagonist) always dies of terminal illness as their favorite plots go; it's just the romantic comedies that I'm most fond of. Perhaps watching how these characters go about their daily lives -- the food they eat, how they speak and address other people, the places they go to -- has made me fascinated about their country and their culture. Whatever little I could get of it in terms of food or language, I always try to eagerly absorb.
Bulgogi Brothers is one of the first restaurants to open in Alabang Town Center's new wing, The Garden. I've been dying to try out this place for quite some time and finally I did with my cousins. The restaurant has a modern vibe to it with its dark wooden interiors intermittently dotted with Korean paintings. Flat screen TV's were set-up showing Korean pop stars in concerts. The spacing of the tables and booths was a bit cramped partly because the tables were big so as to accommodate the heating mechanisms installed in the center of each. Behind our booth was a tall wooden shelf which showcased different Korean liquors, the bottles of which were so pretty, I wanted to take everything home. Maybe I should have dragged the mobile wine cart out of the resto when no one was looking, I don't think anyone would notice, right? Hehe, kidding!
Instead of the usual peanuts commonly found in Chinese restaurants, they served us corn, quail eggs and sweet potatoes in a small platter as an appetizer. Skipping the raw eggs, I went straight for the sweet potatoes which were warm and oh so lovely. My mind was suddenly skimming through different Korean drama scenes where the characters would feast on these on a cold night. If you happen to finish all of it and want some more like I did, just ask the waitstaff and they would happily refill your plate with another round.
Koreans generally have a penchant for having lots of side dishes called Banchan in their meals. I pity the cook who laboriously slaves away preparing each small portion of food, and the dishwasher assigned to clean all these plates after, hehe. Seriously though, these little entremets successfully manage to whet the appetite and urge you to enjoy more of these Korean fare. As with the corn, quail eggs and sweet potatoes, these are complimentary and unlimited in servings. I loved the Spinach Salad dotted with sesame seeds and doused in a spicy Korean dressing, giving it a nice kick. I'm not sure why they call it such since there are far more lettuce leaves than spinach. The others were the pickled vegetables comprising slices of radish, carrots and cucumbers; sauteed eggplants also sprinkled with sesame seeds and a little amount of chili paste(?); and kimchi made of Chinese cabbage submerged in a liquid infused with chili pepper paste. They were so generous with their side dishes that they even let me take home a plastic container full of spinach salad. Needless to say, I was delighted!
Since we had kids with us, we decided to order some noodle soup for them. The Janchi-guksu (P225) had flour noodles swimming in a pot of seafood broth together with a melange of vegetables. At the center of the heap are small strips of seaweed paper lending a bit of salty flavor to the tame taste of the stock.
The glass noodles in the Sogogi Japchae (P350) were cooked perfectly, having that al dente factor -- tender yet still firm to the bite. Small chunks of beef crown the apex of the jumbled red and green bell pepper strips, onions and omelette ribbons. Guarding the parameter are pieces of rice cakes which I absolutely adored. Its resilient, sticky nature gives my teeth something enjoyable to munch on, I think I ate more of it than the glass noodle itself.
I love bibimbap and I love bulgogi for its sweet undertone so the Bulgogi Bibimbap (P395) definitely leaves a big smile on my face; aside from the fact that it really is so beautiful to look at. It radiates with so much color and vibrance -- those bright orange julienned carrots, slices of green zucchini, and those brown earthy mushrooms tamed by the pale yellowish bean sprouts, a tuft of alfalfa(?) lending another bit of green, the rugged brown of beef bulgogi slowly making you salivate and lust for it, and just look at that perfect golden orb at the heart of it all. Utterly ravishing and captivating! Mix it all in and you're all good as each flavor gracefully dances on your tongue only to be replaced with another, albeit a temporary respite, as you bring succeeding spoonfuls into your mouth.
The Seoul Style Bulgogi (P595 for 2-3 pax; P895 for 4-6 pax) is akin to Japanese sukiyaki in that both had thin, tender beef bathed in a somewhat sweet broth. The bulgogi indeed yields to the gnaw of one's teeth, however, I would have preferred more flavor in the slightly bland soup. Just a tad more of seasoning would have been perfect.
The star of the night was the VIP Special Bulgogi (P1,295 for 2 pax; P2,295 for 4 pax), which consists of thin slices of boneless short ribs and a couple of rib eye steaks (the one priced for 4 pax). I like this dry version of grilled meats better than the aforementioned Seoul Style Bulgogi since the marinade is not lost in the soup stock. The rib eye with its beautiful marbling was tender and flavorful yet if left for long tends to get a wee bit tough. The short ribs, on the other hand, was softer and easily breakable under the gentlest of bites. Its flavor is more mellifluous as well, and better weathers airing since it was still tender long after the meat has cooled down. Everyone at our table was self-effacingly trying to leave some other person the last piece, when really, each one had the same thing in mind -- I hope nobody else touches this so I can finally have it without feeling guilty. Eventually, my cousins said they were all full and told me to just polish it off. Well, who am I to say no, right? I mean, it would be such a shame not finish the dish. And so I did. Gladly. Without guilt. Nor shame. Next time I would have a platter of those boneless short ribs all to myself.
When I finally felt more than satiated, I washed every protein down with the Citrus Mint (P150), which was just like a homemade calamansi juice; nice but nothing really spectacular. So was the Fresh Mango Juice (P120). I think I would have better enjoyed one of those cute-bottled inebriants.
The price may be more expensive than your average restaurant, just as it is with the other members of the Bistro Group (TGI Friday's, Italianni's, Fish and Co., Flapjacks, Krazy Garlik, etc.), but with its good food, I'll definitely be back, especially for the Boneless Short Ribs and a bowl of Bibimbap!
Spot: G/F The Garden (New Wing) Alabang Town Center, Muntinlupa City
Contact No.: 919.6840