July 25, 2020

Goo Goo ga ga

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I had been seeing Hansik Goo pop up in social media posts from friends over the last couple of months, but I haven't paid much attention to new restaurants as we've been eating at home more this year.  I did hear some time ago that Chef Mingoo Kang was opening an outpost in Hong Kong, but again, I hadn't paid particular attention.  So it wasn't until Mingoo messaged me out of the blue about coming to Hong Kong that I kinda put two and two together...

Now that Mingoo is out after his 14-day mandatory quarantine, I figured I'd better go check out what he's serving up while he's still in town.  Thankfully they were able to accommodate us for a late lunch on short notice!

As we had to stick to the same choice of menu for the both of us, Hello Kitty had to sacrifice her diet while we took the 7-course menu.

Bugak: assorted seasonal Korean chips - fish skin, tofu, laver, perilla leaves, and pepper.  We were asked to save the pepper till last because it had been flavored with Korean soy sauce.  The others, however, were surprising mild in flavor.

Naengchae: prawn salad with Korean fruits, cod roe and mustard - it's totally like Mingoo to serve us a cold prawn dish, and this came with some eggplant, tomatoes, peach, and orange.  The dressing was made with finely diced Korean plums, garlic, yuzu, and Korean vinegar.  Very refreshing.

I didn't manage to taste any cod roe or mustard...

Yukhoe: Korean style Australian wagyu beef tartare - after mixing the quail egg yolk into the strips of raw beef, I thought I could still taste the classic flavors of doenjang (된장), along with a little heat.

We were told that the fried chips on the side were artichoke, but of course they weren't.  Artichokes look nothing like that.  They were, in fact, Jerusalem artichoke (otherwise known as sunchoke) chips.  And they worked very well with the raw beef.  The julienned Korean pear on the side was a classic garnish.

Samgye risotto: ginseng chicken soup risotto - this was, in my mind, basically a deconstructed samgyetang (삼계탕).  On top of a bed of glutinous rice that was soft and chewy sat a roulade made with chicken leg and breast, wrapped in crispy, deep-fried skin.  The broth clearly tasted of ginseng, and the whole thing reminds one of the ubiquitous Korean classic.  I love it when chefs deconstruct and do modern takes on classics, and this was undoubtedly my favorite dish today.

These pickled onions came on the side, and there was a little heat here.

Korean fried chicken - Mingoo sent us a small portion of this, which is available as an "add on".  The lotus root was breaded and deep-fried the same way as the chicken, and I gotta say that I really, really liked his version of the KFC.

Instead of the usual radish, we got pickled kohlrabi instead.  These were flavored with pomelo, and seemed to be a little firmer than radish.

Korean style fish: snapper with 2 years kimchi - when I first saw the menu, I was scratching my head while trying to imagine what "Korean style fish" would be.  The pan-fried red snapper fillets were very, very nice.  The skin side was crispy while the flesh was very, very succulent and tender.  Topped with a little soy sauce and chopped spring onions.

The two-year-old kimchi was really interesting, and perhaps this was the product of the time he has spent with Jeong Kwan (正寬) sunim.  Once you moved past the obvious acidity, it actually reminded me of my mom's braised cabbage that comes with her lion's head (獅子頭), as the savory and umami flavors were similar to cabbage that had been braised together with meat.

Barbecue pork and bibim-guksu: spicy gochujang noodles with kimchi, perilla leaf and condiments - this was essentially two dishes that got combined into one.  First was basically ssam (쌈) with pork collar.  I gotta say... this was a lot of well-marbled pork and I got pretty full very quickly.  Very tasty, though.

The bibim-guksu (비빔국수) was tasty, and actually reasonably spicy, with chiffonade of perilla leaves, kimchi, and egg.  Thankfully the portion wasn't so big, but it was filling nonetheless.

Omija: sorrel sorbet with omija berry juice - this was Hello Kitty's dessert, as the acidity from the sorrel and the omija (오미자) was more up her alley.

Garu: Korean grains ice cream and crispy puffed rice - to be perfectly honest, the reason I chose this was because I'm the Garu to Hello Kitty's Pucca.

Anyway, the ice cream made with 20 types of grains was pretty interesting, and came with some olive oil on top and some grainy powder - hence garu (가루) - at the bottom.

I made sure to spread a little bit of everything on the thin rice cracker that came on the side.

Jang trio - Mingoo sent us an extra dessert - one that we knew well from our visit to Mingles.  This is, after all, his signature dessert.  Made with doenjang, gochujang, and ganjang, but with just a small amount of crème brûlée this time.  The caramelized pecans with ganjang were still nice, but Mingoo did say that the flavors here weren't as good because the dairy products in Hong Kong had to be pasteurized... although I thought we have unpasteurized French cheese here?

Korean peach - a nice way to finish.

We were completely stuffed, and neither of us would be having a proper dinner after this late lunch.  We really enjoyed our meal, and I thought it was interesting that with the shorter 4-course menu diners would have had mostly the dishes which were familiar to non-Koreans - yukhoe, samgyetang, ssam / bibim-guksu.  These also happened to be the dishes with the strongest flavors.  The additional 3 dishes on the 7-course menu all featured much lighter and delicate flavors.

It was good to see Mingoo again, and I appreciate the hardship he has to endure in order to come to Hong Kong for the opening of the restaurant.  Hopefully we can all travel again soon, and I will be able to see him in Korea next time.

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