Restaurant review: Mugung Hanwoo Beef Specialist, Central – good for beef lovers, but other dishes are disappointing
Until recently, Hanwoo was difficult to find in Hong Kong. Mugung is one place to try the high-quality beef from Korea, whether barbecued or in beef tartare
Although many people think of Korean barbecue as thinly sliced beef with a sweet, soy-based marinade, the very best quality barbecue actually lets the meat shine by itself.
In the world of beef, Hanwoo is considered top quality. It comes from cattle indigenous to Korea and can only be called Hanwoo if the animals are raised there. Until recently, it was difficult to find outside Korea because production is so small.
Mugung in Central is a certified specialist of Hanwoo beef. They offer set menus ranging from HK$388 to HK$1,088 per person, and à la carte selections of marinated beef (inexpensive), Hanwoo beef (expensive), appetisers, soups, mains and sides. It’s a very good idea to stick to the beef offerings; the banchan (side dishes) were meagre and uninteresting.
A small portion of the Hanwoo beef tartare (HK$138; it’s also offered as a main course for HK$320) was more subtly flavoured than other versions we’ve tried – probably because of the excellent quality of the beef. The fried dumplings (HK$98) were slightly oily, but had a nice, moist filling.
The barbecue Hanwoo rare parts set (HK$750 for two, although it was enough for three) featured short rib, top blade, thick skirt and outside skirt. The waiter cooked them for us at a good pace on the grill, and was able to identify each type by sight.
He started us off with the outside skirt. This cut can often be tough, but ours wasn’t as it was cooked just briefly and served rare (as were all the cuts of meat). The top blade was leaner but still tender. My favourite cut was the very meaty-tasting short rib, which was slightly chewier than the soft and mild thick skirt.
Korean fried chicken two ways (HK$98) included fried wings that were slightly overcooked and chunks of dark meat served in a slightly spicy/sweet sauce. The chicken came with vegetables: corn on the cob, potatoes, broccoli and carrots that were cold – as if they were straight out of the fridge.
Even worse was the Korean-style pig’s trotters (HK$180 for one to two; HK$280 for three to four). This shouldn’t have made it out of the kitchen. The meat was cold and hard, the fat was congealed, the skin was chewy, and it was sloppily sliced and presented.
Korean cold noodles naengmyeon (HK$108), on the other hand, should have been much colder (some versions even have ice cubes floating in it). The broth was too sweet and it needed some acidity, as well as the pungent mustard that it is usually served with.
Mugung Hanwoo Beef Specialist, 33 Staunton Street, Central, tel: 2505 1723. Approximately HK$450 without drinks or the service charge.