We celebrated my sister Juji’s fiancé Jay’s birthday last month with a Korean BBQ dinner at Hwa Ro in Northbridge.
As usual, we ordered a feast of epic meaty proportions. But I’ve often thought the tables at Korean BBQ restaurants need slide-out trays or an extra tier, a design to better accommodate diners with hearty appetites. Since most of the tabletop is usually taken up with the hot plate (at Hwa Ro, the rotisserie as well), once all the banchan (side dishes) arrive and then all the meats we’ve ordered, we always struggle to find room for all the dishes, let alone the plates we’re eating off. Throughout the meal, there is constant stacking and shifting of bowls and plates around the table to make room – Tetris, Korean BBQ edition.
At Hwa Ro, you push the red button for service. Each table has its own exhaust fan, which is pulled down towards the barbecue like a periscope, ensuring you won’t leave smelling too much like BBQ, a well known side-effect of eating in a Korean BBQ restaurant.
No one in our group was a big fan of the vinegary pink-tinged pickles, but the slippery cold sesame noodles and fiery kimchi were good enough to warrant second helpings.
We ordered modeum kkochi (AU$32), an assortment of meats on rather lethal-looking skewers, including pork belly, duck, chicken thigh, squid and prawns.
If you’re the sort of eater who is mesmerised by the sight of rotating meats, the table top rotisserie is a thrill – though I must say that the cooking wasn’t fast – at least, that’s how it seemed to the four of us, all watching the skewers with a mighty hunger. The manager demonstrated how the skewers slotted into the rotisserie and explained that we should let the the meat brown in the rotisserie but finish off the skewers’ cooking on the hotplate.
While the skewers turned, we got our hands and faces dirty on roasted chicken wings. Note: the chicken wings are somewhat hard to find on the menu, mysteriously listed under the section “Fried Pancake”.
Our waiter advised that chiken mu (AU$3) is a side dish for the chicken wings, so we ordered it – crisp and tangy marinated diced radish.
Jac is always keen for veggies and ordered the seasoning vegetable salad (AU$5) which turned out to be mostly shredded cabbage and iceberg lettuce. It was a welcome accompaniment to all the meat, but not really worth $5.
Jac was also eager to try the euk hew ($21, “salty sauce seasoning raw beef”). The seasoned raw minced beef was served steak tartare style, topped with a raw egg yolk, all sitting on top of a bed of fresh apple. The egg yolk was garnished with sesame seeds and slices of raw garlic. Jac and Jay ate most of of the dish, but we also cooked some of the minced beef on the hot plate, which tasted pretty good.
Continuing with our meal of vegetarian nightmares, next was the L.A. gal bi, a hefty slab of marinated beef that we placed onto the hotplate where it sizzled away. Once ready, we cut it up using the supplied scissors – essential Korean BBQ equipment – for easier sharing/eating.
I’ve mentioned this before: while I’m entertained and tantalised watching and smelling the food cooking right in front of me, it’s absolute torture, as I’m usually starving as well as impatient. The others tend to take charge of the cooking: Jac and Juji won’t deny being control freaks in their own kitchens, and Jac and Jay are the barbecue masters in their own backyards – it’s only natural that those three seize control of the tongs at Korean BBQ. I don’t mind at all, since the outcome will be tasty tucker.
We had a great time at Hwa Ro and left with full bellies. The cooking was fun and our meatfest delicious. Our waiter’s English wasn’t very good and had trouble understanding what we wanted (she was clearly fine when dealing with tables of Korean customers); thankfully, the manager intervened before bemusement resulted in frustration. Jac was fascinated by the enormous pancakes and the hot pots bubbling away on adjacent tables – I guess that’ll be our next meal at Hwa Ro – hopefully it won’t be too long before we meat again.
Hwa Ro Korean Restaurant
118 Aberdeen St
Northbridge, WA 6003
Telephone: (08) 9228 8823
Australian readers have a chance to win a pack of the new limited edition NESCAFE Gold Single Origin Colombian Blend coffee – competition closes Friday 5 October 2012.