It was our aversion to the holiday restaurant rush that prompted us to visit a Korean barbecue joint in Tomas Morato. Chung Choon Yeon Ga is situated in Il Terrazzo, and it was such a respite during the busy Christmas season. Upon our entry, only one table was occupied. We had the freedom to choose whichever table we wanted, and we had the staff’s attention the moment we needed it — both of which were rarities during the holidays.
We were instructed to choose our preferred meats from the eat-all-you-can menu. According to the staff, we can choose three at a time. We were also asked which of the special sides we wanted to try, and I foolishly opted for a kimchi jeon. Unbeknownst to me, the serving was an entire pancake, instead of what I thought were slices or portions only. I also ordered some tteokbokki, which luckily were less generous than the kimchi pancake. Our table was soon filled with banchan, or those Korean side dishes. The sides were a lot, and instantly you feel full with the abundance of little plates surrounding the grill. My favorites remained to be the fish cakes or oden and the rice cakes or tteokbokki. Four sauces were also provided, namely sesame oil, chili, barbecue sauce and the ubiquitous ssamjang.
Soon, one of the staff members arrived at our table with a bowl of rice and some shredded nori, and quickly began mixing the two and forming them into balls. She then places these rice balls on the grill, suggesting we try them as soon as they get a bit of color from toasting. Indeed, those toasted rice balls were very good, and it was a technique that was new to me and I certainly would love to replicate in the future.
For our first round of meats, we opted for some beef belly, some Chung Choon samgyupsal and some beef bulgogi. These were also speedily delivered to our table and so we began our meal. The pork belly to me was a bit tough after cooking. I don’t know whether we simply overcooked the pork or if it was the meat itself. The bulgogi, to me, was forgettable. Sure, it was flavorful, but because I had the beef belly prior to the bulgogi, the winner was definitely the beef belly. The beef belly paired with the barbecue sauce was my favorite. It was a bite I enjoyed to have over and over, so much so that I ordered the beef belly for our second round.
For our subsequent round, we ordered some galbi along with some doenjang pork, apart from the beef belly that I crowned as my favorite from the first set. Again, I was disappointed with the pork, as I couldn’t taste the doenjang. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the burst of flavor from the galbi. Usually I don’t like dealing with meat bones when I have to use chopsticks, but these short ribs were worth the struggle. Like the beef belly, I enjoyed them with the barbecue more than any of the sauces.
After our second round of meats, we had to tap out. We were just two at the time and it was impossible for us to consume more food. For P599, it was more than what I expected. Sure, the banchan could improve, along with some of the meat flavors, but considering the quantity of food we ate, it was value for money. The juice was included too, although frankly it wasn’t something we enjoyed. If I had the chance to return, I’d simply ask for less side dishes (just the oden and tteokbokki) and I’d gladly have more of the beef belly and the galbi.
Until next time, happy eating!