Restaurant Tour 19: Hangukgwan Korean Restaurant in New Malden

As soon as one steps into Hangukgwan an unusual sight, a large aquarium, catches the eye. The aquarium situated at the end of the hall, containing such as lobsters, crabs and soles, is a unique feature of Hangukgwan. This unexpected view draws attention in itself, but the sole catching practice, carried out live in front of the customers is one to really look out for. Once caught in the hand of a skilled chef, the fresh sole is cooked completely on site, and only by order. The raw fish is a Hangukgwan special and a true delicacy at its freshest. The sole actually continues to breathe on the dished plate, and the remaining bones and flesh are made into Gwang-uh Maeuntang (Spicy Sole Soup). Hangukgwan’s raw sole is one of the best.

Hangukgwan’s interior entails the Korean traditional designs, and the Han-ok (Korean Traditional House) style reservation rooms are a favourite for group meetings. The doors are made of Moonchangsals (Korean Traditional Door Frames) and the walls are covered in the homely traditional Korean wallpaper. This ambiance is what draws so many to Hangukgwan. The clinking of glasses and shouts of cheers are just another part of the vibe of Hangukgwan.

The Set Menus of Hangukgwan is another favourite of many. There are ‘Meal Set’s and ‘Alcohol accompaniment Set’s served with Soju (Korean Alcohol). These provide a variety of food at low prices which is also an attraction for students. The size of the dishes and its quality do not differ in a Set Menu to when it is ordered separately. This allows a lot of dishes to be tasted, and enough of it to fill one up.

The restaurant is run by a couple in their forties, but Hangukgwan boasts a long serving history of 13 years. The owners have pride and attachment to food and are eager to experiment, as evident in their efforts to ship in the sole form Ireland and personally looking around for the best cuts of pork belly. Another such example is the Barbeque dish, which serves a total of 5 different ingredients: Chicken, Beef ribs, Marinated beef, Pork belly and Shrimps. The owners wished to “ease in” the British tastebuds into the Korean traditional Barbeque by including some that are seen often on a ‘British barbeque’ and also introducing those that are found on a ‘Korean barbeque’.

As Hangukgwan believes that all food needs to be prepared with thought and care for the best taste, the restaurant insists on mincing the meat for the dumplings all by hand. With the dumplings being a favourite of many Japanese and British customers, (one time, a group of four ordered four portions of dumplings at once) the kitchen is often overloaded with the mincing, and other orders. But this doesn’t bring any change in the way dumplings are made – and it is this craftsmanship that makes Hangukgwan.

Hangukgwan restaurant has some parking space at its front and is plenty of space to park in neighbouring streets, and of course the Superstore Tesco situated conveniently just outside provides the much needed parking space for large parties and group meetings which are often held on the site.

And not to forget – the excellent service Hangukgwan provides is another to be felt in person.

 

Reported by Bada Kim (bada@theeast.org)

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