By Hiedi Ermitaño
A dream come true for this millennial is being able to travel to Seoul, have my fill of Ssamgyeopsal and Bibimbap, and maybe (hopefully pretty please?) catch a glimpse of my favorite K-pop stars. But for a recent college graduate, this will have to remain in the pipeline for now. So in true K-drama fashion where the heroine is a plucky, never-give-up kinda gal, I will simply indulge in my K-fantasies in the best way I can: eat as much Korean food as possible. So it is no surprise that I am often in my hangout place: Seoul Garden Hotpot in Ayala Malls Serin. Seoul Garden in Serin is located along the Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway, a mall with an open-air design (a boon in the heat) and abundant greenery. You can say it is my happy place.
Seoul Garden Hotpot’s Store Manager Reynalyn Cariño and Store Supervisor Julie Anne Aure shared that the restaurant is a franchise of the famous Seoul Garden brand in Singapore that is renowned for its 2-in-1 buffet barbecue and steamboat. If you are a big fan of Korean dramas such as Descendants of the Sun, Love in the Moonlight or Legend of the Blue Sea (Lee Min Ho!), then this is the perfect place where you can feel the Korean vibe.
Now if you haven’t been to any Korean hotpots, might as well jot down this stylish Korean restaurant on your food list because it is worth a visit.
Seoul Garden Hotpot has two other branches here in the Philippines aside from my happy place in Serin: SM North (which has a different concept from the Serin branch since it offers buffet dining), and in Imus with the same concept as Seoul Garden Hotpot In Tagaytay. The restaurant’s owner chose to branch out in Cavite because they saw the huge potential in the area and the rising popularity of Ssamgyeopsal, hence its inclusion in their new menu. On a global platform, Seoul Garden has a strong presence in countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Dubai, Thailand and Vietnam, a factor that most likely contributed to why it became a go-to place for Korean cuisine here in our country.
Aside from the mouthwatering dishes, what I loved about Seoul Garden Hotpot are the customer-oriented staff, the Korean music that was playing the whole time, their unique grill cooker (cooks meat so fast I get to eat immediately) and the wall art manifesting Korean culture. While I listened to the OST of my all time favorite Kdrama Descendants of the Sun, I was a happy camper watching the staff quickly fill up our long table with savory dishes. When we started to grill the meat of the Pork Ssam and Beef Ssam, the aroma was just too enticing that I couldn’t wait to put my chopsticks to good use. Kudos to the kitchen crew for the wonderful food presentation — perfect for an instagram enthusiast like me. Indeed, I was privileged to join the SouthTrip team in featuring my happy place.
The Grilled Pork Belly in Gochu Jang sauce had the sublime fatty and tender pork belly marinated and basted with their homemade Gochujang concoction. Nothing spells “uncompromisingly authentic” than this. The manager recommended the comfort food Army Stew (Budae Jjigae) and it was definitely a hearty bowl; the noodles were cooked in a thick broth, topped with good old franks (hot dog) and Spam. This was considered comfort food because of its humble origin as a staple dish of soldiers during the Korean War. Frankly speaking, I’m not a fan of spicy food, but it was a nice surprise for my untrained tastebuds. For those with more substantial appetites, the Braised Beef Udon Pot may just be perfect for you — the gelatinous, transparent, soft yet chewy and plump noodles have a hint of sweetness that makes it my new favorite dish.
You simply can’t indulge in Korean culinary fare without trying the Grilled Chicken Bulgogi, simply juicy inside and out. For lighter stuff, we had Fresh Fruits with walnuts; a perfect mix of crunchy apples, sweet pineapples, plum peaches and locally sourced fresh greens topped with bits of walnuts and their very own citron dressing. This goes well with their homemade Kimchi, shredded braised beef and marinated Korean glass noodles tossed with lettuce greens and homemade sauces. This cold salad is sure to refresh you especially in the sweltering heat of summer.
Korean food actually feels healthy with all the fresh ingredients, abundant greens and veggies. My tip to enjoy Korean food to the max: eat without rice. No matter how many dishes you end up ordering, everything is just right, light and feel-good.
Dining at Seoul Garden Hotpot in Ayala Malls Serin was definitely a great way to experience Korea… right here in my hometown of Tagaytay.
Visit Seoul Garden Hotpot at Level 1 Bldg B Ayala Mall Serin Silang Crossing East, Tagaytay – Nasugbu Hwy, Silang Junction South, Tagaytay, Cavite. For inquiries and reservations, contact (046)544.0302.