I was really feeling the Monday blues and there was nothing better than the email I found in my inbox to cheer me up! I’d just been invited to a Korean restaurant’s birthday celebration and I thought to myself- why the hell not?! I’d been hearing a lot about Korean food but had not really given it a proper go so this was my perfect chance. Although a bit of a trek for me from London, once on the train from Waterloo to Mortspur Park, 20 minutes did not seem that far away at all!
Jin Go Gae is a popular family-run restaurant in New Malden and they were celebrating their birthday in partnership with Korea Foods. It was going to be an exclusive evening of Korean food and drink to showcase their most popular dishes and give us an authentic taste of Seoul. Another cuisine to add to my long list too! 😉
Jin Go Gae was originally established by Mr. Cho. He still wakes up at 5am each morning to make all of their secret marinades and sauces, but the restaurant is now run day to day by his daughters Nicole and Sisil.
Jin Go Gae offers a true Korean experience both day and night. At lunch times they offer an affordable lunch menu, with dishes such as short rib soup and rice for only £6. In the evenings, the restaurant is famous for their BBQ and are one of the very few restaurants in London to use coal which gives their meat the authentically smoky flavours that Koreans love.
It’s always a great sign when the restaurant is full of local Koreans. You know it’s a good start!
I love the small details. Whether it’s the way the table is laid out, the cutlery used or design of the menu. What better way to welcome us than have our very own personalised name tags (and names in Korean- how cool!!) and menu?! Jin Go Gae- you had me at the word Go 😉
The menu was split into four sections…and I still couldn’t get over how nicely it was designed. My very own personal menu to take home as a souvenir! 😉
We were treated to some condiments every Korean dining table is incomplete without not to forget the cult favourite KIMCHI!! (I am addicted)
The pancake was so delicious! Both of these had a different texture. The Parjeon had varied textures- it was crispy, spring onions still had a crunch to them and you could taste the seafood which usually in such a dish can diminish.
The sweet potato starch noodles were a revelation! They were translucent, beautiful to look at and had such a distinctive taste but I could not tell they were made of sweet potato at all. Japchae was definitely one of my favourite starters. If they’d given me the Parjeon and Japchae- I would’ve happily finished both dishes on my own 😛
This rice cake dish was the perfect palate cleanser. It tasted so fresh and had such clean flavours.
Since I don’t eat pork my friend Paddy kindly stepped in to review the pork dishes for me 😀
All the starters served were delicious and it would be unfair if I picked one over the other because even when I look at the photos- I am reminded of the amazing burst of flavours in my mouth and the subsequent song and dance in my head!
Every single starter had a personality of its own. While the Kangpoongi was fiery and crunchy, the Tteokbokki (Tuk-bokki) was sweet which gets overtaken by the warmth of the chilli and then you can’t help but fall in love with the softness of the rice cakes. It was the ultimate Korean comfort food. If I’m having one of those ridiculous days where I want to punch someone- I’d happily trade that mood for a bowl of Tteokbokki. I feel it holds the magic to lift me up! 😉
Five hearty starters down, I thought we were coming to the end of our meal. NOPE! Not even close.
BBQ time! Every table at Jin Go Gae has a coal fuelled grill and these were imported all the way from Korea. The staff expertly handled the meat and the coal. Laid it out all nicely for us and made us look like novices. These BBQ’s are a great way to have fun in groups where you can cook the meat like you want and challenge each other to eat the whole thing in ONE BITE!
One bite you say?! Yep! So once the meat is grilled, you dip it in the sesame oil (only for the meat that isn’t marinated) and lay it on the cabbage leaf, top it up with mix of chopped spring onions, green chillies and my new favourite Go-chujang chilli paste. AND then you devour all of this in one bite! I challenge you for next time you are at Jin Go Gae. 😉
If you’re a vegetarian then there are plenty of choices in the main menu however, you won’t find a vegetarian BBQ option since Korean BBQ is traditionally meat based.
My friend Paddy had the following experience to share of the BBQ:
By the time I forced myself to eat the last piece of my BBQ’d beef, I was told there was still the rice dish to go. Err… Wut?!
It was Bibimbap! And having heard nothing short of great stories about this dish, how could I let it pass? Full stomach?? Paah! whatever…
Bibimbap is served in a hot stone bowl glazed with sesame oil (so the rice doesn’t stick), topped with baby spinach, yellow head bean sprouts, carrots, mooli, zucchini, mushrooms, seaweed flakes, marinated beef and fried egg accompanied with spicy chilli paste. Words cannot do the photo any justice. Just look at the beautiful array of colours and you’re definitely getting more than your 5 a day in this dish! 😛
Sisil showed us how it’s done Korean style. She dropped a generous dollop of the chilli paste on top, cracked the glistening egg yolk and proceeded to give the whole dish a good mix.
And my portion. Mmmm….every bite had a distinct flavour. While in one bite I would have the mushroom, zucchini and egg with rice; in another bite, I would get mooli, chilli paste, rice and beef. Full of texture, fresh vegetables and seasoned to perfection- just a perfect bowl of goodness for one of these wintery nights!
All the foodies busy devouring their Korean feast… 😛
Last but not the least was the dessert. I’ve never really tasted any Korean dessert and I don’t think Korean cuisine is known for their dessert either. This part of the meal was definitely the talking point and something all us diners will never forget! 😛 #ifyouknowyouknow
While the dessert wasn’t something to write home about- I do challenge you all to try the Green tea rice balls. And while you’re at it- do a challenge of who gets to eat the most in one go. How hard can it be right?! Well, once you get there and attempt this challenge- let me know how it went. I’d love to know! 😛
Having eaten over my capacity and my stomach screaming and shouting by this point- I was happy to be rolled all the way home. I was full- but in a good way since the food and the ingredients were so fresh.
It was such a lovely evening being hosted by Sisil, Nicole and Da-Hae and Dan from Korea Foods as well as the staff at Jin Go Gae. This night was truly an education and an eye-opener for me in terms of Korean cuisine and I’ve never been more happier adding a new food category to my blog 😀
Our hosts and Korea Food patrons very kindly prepared some goodie bags for us to take away with some recipes to try at home. Suffice to say- they’ve converted me 🙂
I heartily recommend this restaurant to anyone who is looking to try Korean food. It is a restaurant that is run with passion and love. The locals love it and it’s a Korean community favourite. Bring your friends and family to this lovely place. I can guarantee- you won’t go home disappointed! 😀
And if you’re inspired to cook some Korean food at home, why not check out Korea Foods (largest importers of Korean food in Europe) and cook up your own Korean feast at home!
To find out more, find below the link to their website and social media accounts:
Facebook page: Jingogae
There are plenty more reviews to come so stay tuned!
Have you checked out my other reviews? Don’t forget to read about my favourite Afghani restaurant- 4 years of going there and they are still going strong! Check out my review of Ariana in Mile End. xx