MANILA -- Korean BBQ has been all the rage in the Philippines, and one of the newest and biggest players to enter the Philippines -- this time from the shores of California -- is Gen Korean BBQ House.
The ‘Gen’ character in Korean means the beginning, and just recently its 500-seater restaurant at SM by the Bay at the Mall of Asia complex started operations in an elaborate, star-filled bash.
Attending the grand launch were the Philippine partners of Gen Korean BBQ, Excello Restaurant Management Group's Raymund Magdaluyo, Leina Bolinas, and Marvin Agustin. Debonaire Korean-American actor Ricky Kim was also on hand to lend his support and gamely posed for pictures with fans.
David Kim, CEO of Gen Korean Barbecue abroad, led the Los Angeles-based contingent of management staff and trainers.
“Given Manila’s affinity for embracing Korean culture, as well as the discerning taste of its locals, the match couldn’t be more perfect. Moreover, Filipinos recognize and appreciate establishments that go the extra mile to provide them with worthwhile experience for their hard-earned money, and that’s exactly what Gen Korean BBQ House is,” he said.
The restaurant itself is a mirror image of the US locations, from the side dishes to the wall designs and floors. This means that walking into the Manila branch will feel exactly the same as if you were on the West Coast.
Besides interiors that a K-pop fan would love to spend time in, GEN is not your typical Korean barbecue joint. While the BBQ menu has all the requisites – pork or beef bulgogi, top blade premium steaks, samgyupsal, and the like, GEN has much more.
Dubbing itself as a fusion Korean BBQ joint, the menu has items that take flavors from around the world into the realm of Korean BBQ, something new to the Filipino market. And if what we tasted was any indication, something that the Filipino market will love.
Here were some of the fusion must-trys that we enjoyed in GEN BBQ:
1. Hawaiian Steak
Pineapples on my grilled beef? Yes, please! Marinated in teriyaki sauce with the addition of pineapples, your grilled beef becomes sticky and sweet. There’s a backnote of richness and meatiness to the dish, thanks to the beef rendering juices from the tenderizing properties of pineapple.
2. Red Wine Samgyupsal
One of the owners told us that we should order the Red Wine Samgyupsal. Pork belly marinated in red wine surprisingly makes for sweet BBQ, something that Filipinos would surely enjoy. The red wine naturally tenderizes and forms a caramelized crust on the meat, and no, you don’t taste alcohol. Surely a bestseller.
3. Hangjungsal (pork cheek) with Radish Kimchi
This was recommended to us by the servers. Order the Hangjungsal and ask for two or three servings of radish kimchi. Lay your pork cheek on the grill, and top it with your radish kimchi. So the kimchi cooks with the pork. Who knew cooked radish kimchi would taste so good?
4. Premium Steak (or anything really) with the Manager’s Special
Befriending your waiters (or managers) almost always yields yummy results. In this case, we were treated to the Manager’s Special. Take any meat and grill and mix it with hot sauce, basic sauce, sour sauce, and chilies. Trust us, the managers know what they’re doing. Sweet, spicy and sour, everything that Filipinos love in a dish is in this dish.
Other recommended entrees are Gen’s Garlic Chicken (extra garlicky and pairs well with their spicy sauce), and the Cajun Calamari (raw squid with bold red sauce that transforms into tender vinegary sour and spicy bites).
For P798 for lunch, and P1,288 for dinner, diners can order as much of these and other meats in Gen’s sprawling menu (20 items for lunch, 30 items for dinner), as well as unlimited banchan (side dishes).
Gen Korean Barbecue is located at the SM By The Bay across the Conrad Hotel. Restaurant hours are from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.