Having watched Judy Joo on Saturday Kitchen last Saturday morning I was reminded to finish off my review of Jin Go Gae, a marvellous restaurant I visited late last year, with the best Korean food I have eaten so far…so here it is, better late than never…
It’s not often I make a trip to a restaurant beyond zone 2 where the only transport is on an overground train- and by the overground train I mean network rail not the ginger line that goes to Shoreditch and Clapham. But New Malden is one of those exceptions.
New Malden, I have been told, has the highest density of Korean people outside of South Korea so it’s no surprise that the best Korean food can be found right here in this south west London(ish) suburb.
Jin Go Gae is a family run restaurant situated in the heart of this grey suburbia which specialises in mouth-watering Korean barbecue amongst other delicacies and dishes. Last year when I interviewed Dan Suh, managing director of Korea Foods, I asked him to name his favourite restaurant, and this was it. So when I was invited to an evening feast to showcase Jin Go Gae’s delights I immediately started whatsapping friends to cancel any plans and let them know I had something far more important things to do (eat).
A night of 8 courses commenced with pajeon, a light, fluffy and crisp seafood pancake followed by Japchae, noodles made of sweet potato starch. I did a little skip when kang poong gi (Korean fried chicken) graced our tables. Far better than any high street chicken shop this chicken is crunchy and crisp and coated in a perfectly balanced sweet and spicy sauce.
Having been excessively greedy and overwhelmed with excitement and desperation to eat everything in sight I was unable to pace myself with the all the food. As all the elasticity on the waist of my skirt had stretched beyond its limits I seriously started to doubt whether I could eat the rest of the dishes that were still yet to grace our tables. Though my belly said full my eyes said ‘Please Sir, more’ as the waiters and waitresses cleared the plates to reveal coal barbecues built in to the tables. We all did a little song and dance and said a little thank you prayer to the gluttonous food gods when slabs of raw, perfectly marbled beef and mouth wateringly fatty pork belly blanketed the coal barbecues. Eager to showcase the traditional way of Korean eating we were instructed to place the meat with raw garlic, chilli and sauce in a lettuce leaf and then stuff the whole thing in our gob.
The savoury part of the meal finished off with the all time Korean favourite of Bi Bim Bap, rice in a hot stone bowl with raw egg, meat and julienne cut vegetables, all stirred together with red pepper sauce. With a little bit of common sense you will have guessed that the egg cooks as the bowel is so hot. At this point I was struggling to shove all the delicious food in my mouth. Luckily the dessert provided at the end- chewy coated balls that resembled bon bons- was not the greatest end to the meal. One big green bon bon like sweet that was coated in green tea powder resembled a giant rolled bogey and was unpleasantly bitter. Most of us either swallowed with politeness or found a hiding place for the green little monster.
We all know oriental cuisine isn’t renowned for dessert, so ignoring that Jin Go Gae is a perfect example of why Korean food is on the up. The food is spectacular and hasn’t been adapted or altered as most of its customers come from the Korean community of New Malden seeking a little bit of home.
So if you haven’t yet tried Korean food and you’re wondering what the hell all the hype’s about then take a little bit of time to familiarise yourself with this lesser known oriental cuisine from this quality, family run restaurant- the travel is well worth it.