By Rosemarie Reyes – SouthTrip Editor-in-Chief
The Gen Z set (those born from 1997 to 2014) is characterized as digital natives, independent learners and multitaskers who posses an entrepreneurial streak. Having lived in the age of social media, they socialize almost exclusively online and reserve meet ups for those in their tight social circle. As a Gen Zer, I can relate best with the last trait. My friends and I have committed to meeting at least twice a month, and that food will always be involved in those meetups.
It is no surprise that the endless discovery for good eats is an activity that we continue even after we have finished senior high at DLSU in Laguna and moved to different universities in Metro Manila. As we all go home on weekends, we try to visit new restaurants that have sprung since we entered college.
Most recently, our incredible great value find is the newly opened Matgalne Korean Restaurant in Laguna Central Mall, Sta. Rosa, Laguna. Why has this restaurant captivated our senses?
One, Matgalne offers four different buffet dining options to suit a variety of budgets and eating styles. Yes, FOUR. All allowing unlimited trips to the buffet station. And that includes drinks, salads and desserts too.
Two, because of the way the owners planned their menu, we can eat our fill and enjoy each other’s company without straining our student-level budgets.
The Salad Bar Buffet is the most budget-friendly type at only 350p per person. If you are perfectly content with the side dishes that accompany the traditional Korean meal, then you will love this. But of course, Matgalne ups the ante by offering much, much more than what you have been used to. Our favorites include Bulgogi, Dakpal (spicy chicken feet), Ubac Bujinge (fried zucchini), JapChae (if you like pancit, you will love this version with Korean glass noodles), Odengbukeum (fish cake), Kimchi (in our opinion, the best that is currently available in similar restaurants and grocery stores), Gyeranmari (egg omelette), Kimchi Pajun (Kimchi pancake), Sweet Potato Balls and Fried Kimbap to name just a few. The Salad Bar also includes three types of drinks (orange and pineapple juices and cucumber iced tea), salads and sweets (pandan and coffee jelly).
If Samgyubsal or pork belly is your meat of choice, you should opt for the Samgyubsal Buffet for only 499p. This gives you unlimited pork belly slices to grill plus everything in the Salad Bar. We love the variety of fresh greens, not just lettuce (different varieties of that too), but our new favorite, the slightly bitter sesame leaf that pairs so well with the meat.
If like me, you are tempted to try all the other meats on gorgeous display, better go for the All Meat Buffet at 599p. If I hadn’t, I would never have discovered that there is something a whole lot flavorful and juicier than pork belly — Moksal or pork neck steak! Roll this up, k-drama style, on a piece of fresh sesame leaf, and you will know what heaven tastes like. You have a choice of both plain meats and those marinated in their special sauces. In addition to my new fave Moksal, this section offers Samgyubsal or pork belly, Chadolbaki (beef brisket), chicken, (they even offer chicken gizzard!) and many more meats for grilling. Again, the Salad Bar is open for you.
For the same 599p price, you may choose the Shabu Shabu Buffet. My friend, a die hard fan of this flavorful broth, was ecstatic to find Matgalne’s inclusions to the steaming bowl: chicken, various greens (Romaine lettuce, sesame leaves, Taiwan pechay, Tagalog pechay, Baguio pechay and more), crabstick, fish cake, Dory, tahong, shrimps, squidballs, meatballs, stick mushrooms and many more. The price does not include the All Meat selection but you still enjoy unlimited trips to the Salad Bar.
Now if you have a really big appetite, why not try absolutely everything on the floor for only 699p? You have access to the Salad Bar, Sabu Shabu plus the All Meat sections. That way you can have the best of everything for a reasonable amount. Some of my friends were undecided which buffet option to take and just went for this. Afterwards, they declared their choice a “no brainer”, rubbing big bellies with satisfied (sleepy) smiles.
Matgalne owner Ms. Amy Ha shared that her husband’s family started Matgalne 15 years ago when they opened the first branch in Makati. Now the family operates seven Matgalne Korean Restaurants located in Makati, Ortigas, Sucat Parañaque, Sta. Rosa and Calamba. She also explained that the buffet stations are housed under a traditional Korean roofline which lends to the authentic ambiance of the place. A huge Korean musical instrument called the gayageum dominates one wall. The friendly and efficient servers are also garbed in festive colors of the traditional Korean attire called the Hanbok.
Truth be told, Matgalne has spoiled my friends and I. Now we might not be content with those being offered by other Korean restaurants with the same buffet menu of grilled meats (namely pork belly) and shabu shabu. Matgalne has outdone others with their sheer breadth of offerings, the high quality of their meats, the authenticity of flavors, and the overall space and cleanliness that make dining here a very wise — and very delicious — choice.
The best part? We went out of the restaurant smelling OK, without the odor of the food we ate. Another group who dined on the same day remarked that they will be able to attend a wedding after their lunch. Credit goes to the modern looking and spotless smokeless grill that is found on every table. We liked that it eliminated the need for installing exhaust pipes that run down from the ceiling and hover above the table, a common fixture in most Korean restaurants. We were able to easily talk to our table companions without dodging those pesky, large pipes.
The restaurant’s name means three things in Korean: Mat “tastes good”, Gal “looks colorful” and Ne “place or house”. This house has now become our favorite Korean hangout in Sta. Rosa. We are more excited to catch up with the latest happenings to our high school band with good food at the best value in Matgalne, our corner of the south.
Matgalne Korean Restaurant is located at Unit 17-20, Second Floor Laguna Central Greenfield City, Sta. Rosa, Laguna. For inquiries, call 0927.235.4274.