New restaurants in Hong Kong: The Charcoal Room in Mong Kok – high-quality Korean grilled meats
Susan Jung went for Hanwoo beef and Jeju pork and was certainly not disappointed, while the other dishes – even the banchan and kimchi – all went down extremely well
We had a good feeling about The Charcoal Room within moments of sitting down.
You can often tell the quality of a Korean restaurant by its banchan – the small side dishes served with Korean cuisine – and its kimchi.
Both were excellent. The waiter set down an array of banchan before we ordered, including lotus root in a sticky, slightly sweet sauce, white radish kimchi, bean sprouts with sesame oil, and a green salad with a creamy dressing that we didn’t bother with. The kimchi, meanwhile, was served from a pot placed on each table so guests could help themselves to as much as they wanted.
The restaurant offers extensive two-person set dinners that include beef, pork and chicken priced at HK$620 (US$80) or HK$860 (US$110) plus 10 per cent. But we wanted to focus on eating the Hanwoo beef and Jeju pork, so we ordered à la carte.
We thought we were supposed to cook the meats ourselves, as we’ve done at other Korean restaurants, but a helpful waitress soon took over, and did a great job.
Thin slices of chuck tail flap with sea urchin (HK$198) needed only about a minute on the grill and were cooked only on one side, so the meat was still very rare and the sea urchin was warm, but raw. It was a great combination and needed only a touch of salt.
The Hanwoo boneless rib (HK$280) was tender and succulent. It’s not as heavy and rich as Japanese beef, which means you can eat more of it without feeling bloated.
We also loved the thick ox tongue (HK$120) – substantial, meaty pieces that went deliciously with bites of kimchi.
The Jeju thick pork shoulder butt (HK$158) came nicely layered with fat and was mild, sweet and moist. The waitress told us to dip the pieces in ssamjang (fermented soybean dipping sauce) or a pungent and spicy fish-based sauce, before wrapping them in lettuce, cabbage or perilla leaves.
There were many other dishes we wanted to try, including the seafood pancake, bibimbap and cold noodles. But our waitress strongly recommended the seolleongtang with rice (HK$128). She poured hot broth over a bowl of rice, vegetables and thinly sliced beef. It was a comforting, stomach-filling dish, but would have been better if the broth had been hotter.
The Charcoal Room, Shop 501, 5/F TOP, 700 Nathan Road, Mong Kok, tel: 2619 0868. About HK$450 without drinks or the service charge.
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