With some renovation work taking place around China Square, it took us a while to find Wang Dae Bak even though we knew it was directly in front of us. We couldn’t make a reservation earlier because the place was fully booked, but when we reached there were more empty tables than guests. Good thing we chose to try our luck and walk in.
First to arrive were our side dishes and barley tea. The usual spread of tofu, fish cake, kimchi, and sugar peanuts were served. All side dishes and tea were complimentary and could be refilled.
Common to many Korean bbq restaurants, the group was seated at a round table with a grill in the centre. What stood out was the use of charcoal to heat the grill which is meant to be better for grilling because of the resultant caramelised meat with a smokey flavour.
Above our grill was an exhaust hood with one out of two light bulbs functioning. Not something usually worth mentioning, but in this case, the poor lighting was the bane of any photographer without a fancy camera. I could not get any good photos from dinner which made me pretty sad. Maybe that’s reason to go back?
The first to go on the bbq plate was the onion because apparently it makes everything more fragrant. I don’t think it made a difference except to the person who ate the onion in the end.
The outer ring of the grill is indented to allow patrons to cook an egg omelette (free flow of eggs for those who are interested). There’s also the option of adding crab meat (surimi, rather). We were initially very excited over the prospect of a never-ending supply of free omelettes but the hype died down soon. After all, free omelette is still omelette.
The outer ring does not heat up as quickly so our omelettes took a while to cook. It is a nifty addition to the dining experience but not without shortcomings. At one point, our egg overflowed onto the table and at another, the red liquid from the pork flowed into our omelette and no one wanted to risk eating pork-infused omelette.
Set A – prime ribs, pork belly, pork shoulder and marinaded chicken ($48)
We started with the pork belly and that turned out to be the best of all our meat options. The chicken was really sweet, the pork shoulder was tasteless, and the prime rib was bland. It drove home the point that a charcoal grill only helps that much – the meat still has to be marinaded well.
Seafood pancake ($19)
The seafood pancake was huge!! All of us were stunned by the sheer size of it. It took 5 of us to finish that pancake. Unless you’re really hungry and do not intend on ordering other dishes, I wouldn’t recommend ordering this for a party of 2-3. The pancake was fluffy in the centre and crispy at the edges. It contained generous servings of spring onions, squid and prawns.
Japchae was available only as an add-on. Not sure why it didn’t warrant being served as a dish on its own. It seems all the ingredients were used in the seafood pancake and there was nothing left for the japchae. When it first arrived, everyone commented that it looked incredibly plain. I agreed, but held out hope that the ingredients were buried underneath. Nope. They weren’t.
Our total bill was $88 – not bad at all for 5 people but bear in mind, we only ordered the meat from set A and that’s meant to be shared by two. We thought we might have to order more but after the enormous pancake, free flow of sides and egg omelettes, we were stuffed. The meal was average but I have heard that their stews are good, so a return trip for a pork stew is likely.