When my 2 months vegetarian diet ended, the first craving that popped up into my mind was Korean barbeque. The main reason is not so much because there is endless meat in the meal but also because of the late-night Korea drama binge-watching seeding the idea into my subconscious mind.
I was doing a search on popular Korean barbeque outlets and at the same time, pretty affordable choices and Wang Dae Bak came highly recommended. Although, I had really wanted to try another restaurant in Tanjong Pagar but gave up as there was no reservations for that restaurant and I was not up to queue to wait for a table. There are 2 Wang Dae Bak outlets, first one at Amoy Street area and the 2nd one at China Square area. I went to the more spacious outlet in China square.
As you enter the outlet, you can immediately smell the heavy smell of barbeque meat, oil and smoke. The entire place has been decorated to resemble a Korea street scene complete with a few orange zinc roof, faux brick walls and wooden doors. For those who do not want to end up smelling like barbecued meat, can opt to sit outside along the walkway of China Square but there is only a couple of tables and it can be pretty hot as there is no additional fans provided. The indoor seating are all air-conditioned but at the same time very smokey.
Wang Dae Bak offers thicker cuts than the usual Korean barbeque eat all you can buffet restaurants and one serving of meat costs around SGD 19 to SGD 29. There are also sets meals starting from SGD 48 with different meats to satisfy the carnivore in you.
Like any decent Korean restaurant, the server came with a variety of sides dishes after taking our order which is complimentary and refilled on request. The first 3 had chilled tofu in soy sauce, soy-marinated fish cake and fermented napa cabbage kimchi.
The other 2 side dishes is a ball of mashed potato salad and fried crispy peanuts and anchovies.
The one thing that cannot be missed in any Korean barbeque is the fresh lettuce which is used to create meat wraps or rice wraps.
There was also a dish of freshly mixed kimchi with lettuce, leek, spring onions, beans sprouts and sesame seed. This can be eaten with rice, used in the wraps or just on its own. As this is not the fermented variety of kimchi, the vegetables are still crunchy and fresh with the spicy and sour taste of Korean chilli paste, vinegar and sugar.
The grill at Wang Dae Bak is heated using charcoals so it might not be that easy to control the heat of the grill but at the same time, there is that alluring smokey flavours in the meat that is grilled on a charcoal grill. Something very interesting at Wang Dae Bak is that the server will come around the tables and scoop some liquid egg onto the small circular drain surrounding the grill.
While cooking the meat, the egg can be eaten first as it cooks pretty fast and it is flavoured by some of the meat juices as well. The only downside is that once you concentrate on cooking the other meats, the egg gets forgotten and left to burn just like what happened to our egg. The taste of the egg is quite general so I find it more a gimmick.
I ordered the set meal with pork and chicken and some mushroom and you can tell from the serving it is quite generous and the meat is also quite thick. I took a picture only after I put on 2 slabs of pork belly onto the grill. The pork belly was occupying the space where the tong is in this picture so the plate really came quite filled. Personally, I think the serving for a set is quite reasonable.
This is the rest of the meat that I have put onto the grill for some time so the pork belly has shrunk in size. As the charcoal heat is quite big, the meat cooks quite fast so it is important to pay attention to the meat. Generally, everyone is cooking their own meat so I am not so sure if the server can help you if you request for their assistance in grilling the meat.
We had the kimchi soup which is mildly spicy and full of ingredients like tofu, kimchi vegetables, onions and mushrooms. The soup is quite balanced and quite full-bodied with a nice tinge of sour from the kimchi and savoury from the rest of the ingredients. Most importantly, it was a good soup to wash down the oily meat from the grill.
The best dish is no doubt the kimchi pancake. The size of the pancake was huge as it came served in a cute bamboo basket which reminds you of those traditional Korean markets. A soy dipping sauce is provided together with the pancake to provide that additional punch of saltiness. While the pancake is huge in size, it is very easy to stomach as it is cooked till so flat and crispy that you feel like you are almost biting into a biscuit. The batter in the pancake is all well cooked into a crispy pancake with crunchy kimchi in between bites. This is so far one of the best pancakes I have eaten out of Korea.
Overall, the food at Wang Dae Bak is ok but nothing too astonishing that will make me addicted although the pancake is really quite impressive. I left the shop smelling like my dinner which is typically at any Korean barbeque.
Address: China Square Central, 22 Cross St, #01-64, Singapore 048421
Operating hours: 11.30 am to 2.30 pm and 5.30 pm to 10.30 pm ( Closed on Sunday)