CHECK IT OUT: Woo Galbi at Shangri-La East Wing, Mandaluyong
6/F Shangri-La East Wing, Mandaluyong City
Tel. No. 655-0558
Open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Monday to Thursday), 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Friday), 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Saturday), 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Sunday)
(SPOT.ph) This is not your typical Korean restaurant. For one, there's duck, which isn't usual Korean fare. There's maki and sashimi, which are technically Japanese. The K-Pop in the background, however, reaffirms everything. Woo Galbi may not be standard, but any place that allows you to build your own bulgogi, customize heat levels, and offers unlimited ssambap is definitely ideal.
Ssambap is the Korean habit of using greens to wrap rice, meat, and sauces and seasonings into a bite-sized plethora of flavor. For P299 (lunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) and P399 (dinner, 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.), rice and lettuce come without limits while customers may choose from pork, beef, or chicken-each served like a tall delicious mountain of meat. The pork is recommended: a blanket of crisp, golden skin covers the lean, already bite-sized cuts of meat. The bitterness of fresh greens wraps around tender cutlets, while ssamjang coats it with a little blast of fire.
The sign on the table indicates that it's only available on weekends for a limited time, but a whisper and maybe a point to the server, and you can have it any time, any day. Shh...
Of course bibimbap (P420) is always desirable, especially in a situation where you can pick everything from the type of rice (red or white) to the vegetables to the proteins to the sauce. Ponzu and sesame are safer choices for those uninitiated to the spicy wonders of Korean cuisine, but the fiery kimchi-esque gochujang and the sweet and hot bulgogi stunningly coax out each individual flavor better while simultaneously tying them together.
A plainer accompaniment might work better against the Galbi Jjim (P465), short ribs that vaunt a boldly sweet flavor against the braised Angus beef. The Tofu Steak (P220), though designed as an appetizer, could appease lighter gustatory requirements.
Some of the best moments in life are those that catch you off guard. One of those moments is discovering a maki, the Woo Galbi Roll (P588), to be precise, in the menu. It's a complicated mix of kani, mango, crisp tempura batter, and eel hugged tightly by rice in and painted with a special eel-based sauce. It's deep, marvelously diverse in each bite-sized portion, and still, quite simply good. Again, it's not the usual setup for a Korean restaurant, but no one's complaining.