Saturday, January 28, 2017

Neighborhood Korean

I spent one Friday afternoon checking out yet another new restaurant in my office neighborhood with a friend/former colleague E who works right nearby. With The News Room quietly gone from the street corner near Quarry Bay’s Taikoo Place, in its place came Bib n Hops, the second outpost of this casual, street food style Korean restaurant concept backed by Chef Alvin Leung.

We were rather surprised when we arrived at the door slightly before everyone's heading for lunch, we were told all the tables were taken. But at least they offered us seats at the counter next to the bar, which were still very comfortable for a quick, casual lunch. The place offered a lunch set with choices of starters and main courses, including a few choices "baps", rice served in a hot stone bowl.

I have been to the original branch in Wanchai a few months back and I thought the set-up of both places was somewhat similar, with the same wooden-golden color theme, urban, industrial-chic style with loud music banging at the background even during the day. We each ordered one of the lunch sets but shared everything.

I came to appreciate the starter dish of yukhoe more, now that it’s my second time trying the Bib n Hops version. Juliennes of ice-cold steak was marinated and served raw with pear sorbet, soy-truffle aioli, dots of cured duck egg yolk and topped with a thin parmesan crisp. There’s the punchiness, sweetness, ooziness from the egg yolks, the flavorful meat with a good bite then the parmesan crisp bringing in a bit of crunchiness and savory taste. Just a mouthful of absolute wonder. We were told the portion for our starter course would be small (so we both ordered our own) but actually each portion is big enough to each share a decent bite.

Well, I wasn’t so sure about the Seoul Pad Thai. There’s nothing majorly wrong – stir-fried rice noodles combined with kimchi, gochujang tamarind, egg, bean sprouts (like a fusion-style Pad Thai), plus Korean Fried Chicken nuggets on the side. But I don’t know… somehow it reminded me of those cheap chachanteng-style spaghetti mixed with ketchup. That said, I love the fried chicken, and we still finished the dish no problem.

The pork-belly baps was amazing. It was super colorful when it was presented in a slightly hot stone bowl, with carrots, tomatoes, avocado, onions and jalapeno on top, in addition to the pork belly and rice underneath, and on the side was a jalapeno aioli that one could spoon and mix in with everything. It’s packed with all these great flavors and felt particularly hearty on this slightly chilly day with some rice with the crisp burnt bit at the bottom. I could actually live with a bit more heat in this, because despite the presence of plenty of peppers, the dish was not spicy at all.

Overall I thought the place was a bit on the pricey side, especially compared to other places in this area, but the portion was more than generous and I certainly don’t mind coming back every now and then, or stay behind near this area for dinner. From what I remember (from their Wanchai restaurant) they serve pretty kick-ass cocktails too. Good place for Happy Hour too, I suppose?

When? January 20 2017
Where? Bib n Hops, G/F 33 Tong Chong Street, Quarry Bay, Hong Kong
Menu Highlights? Peruvian-spices Omega-3 Pork Belly Bap with Jalapeno Aioli

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