Hallah Contemporary Korean Cuisine
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I’m not an expert on Korean food, but there are aspects of it that I quite like. The Western segment of Victoria St, opposite QVM, has become a bit of a Korean food enclave. I held lofty dreams of trying each and everyone of them, but to date have only managed to visit Mr Lee, Hallah and Wooga. Why I’ve not visited many more is probably because they are mostly Korean BBQ focussed venues, don’t like.
Yeah yeah… I understand how Korean BBQs can be a wonderfully social meal between friends, but having multiple tables cooking away in that enclosed space is just too much. You leave dinner greasy-faced, with your clothes and hair stinking of meat smoke. Also, many of the meats on offer are marinated, in my books: marinated = not fresh. And the final icing on the cake is: why am I forking out money to cook my own damn food? Ha ha!
Hallah is about the only Korean BBQ place on that stretch that isn’t smoky, and the reason why is because, like Maedaya in Richmond, the BBQ section is in level 2 upstairs. So when I feel like having Korean and don’t feel like driving all the way to Carnegie for a meal at 7 & 7, I’d probably end up at Hallah’s downstairs. On a side note, looking at the restaurant signage, I’d always thought it was called “Wallah”.A catch up with Swells was long overdue since I’d returned from Singapore, so we met at this corner of the city and deliberated for a very short while before agreeing on Korean food. As we trundled down the “path of the kimchi”, I cringed at all the potentially smoky-looking places and yes, once again, entered Hallah. Ha ha! Yes yes, I know this is a very bad way to guide my palate, according to smokiness rather than food quality… but anyway.
The kimchi selection isn’t as lavish as what I’m used to at other places, but it’s still pretty satisfying. Love Korean kimchis!
So this visit isn’t going to cover the hugely popular KFCs or BBQs of the Korean food world. Laudably, Swells and I went with the beef mushroom hotpot (2ppl) $28 instead. It’s funny, because I half expected having to cook the beef myself, sans BBQ smoke. But no, it appears Korean hotpots tends to have all the ingredients already in the pot. And you just let it all simmer under low heat and cook slowly as you pick away at all the delightful components hiding inside.
*Shiok… this hotpot was delicious!
*Shiok is commonly used in Malaysia & Singapore. It’s essentially used to convey a feeling of sheer pleasure and happiness. [source: urban dictionary]
The simmering broth was clean tasting and gently sweet with hints of Japanese konbu. Also, anything with so much vegetables and Asian mushrooms in it just makes me so so happy. Swells felt the same way, he also liked the beef pieces in the soup. My only complaint with the beef was how they came clumped on one side of the pot and you had to free them out yourself.
Interestingly, the (assumedly) sweet potato noodle did not go mushy or soggy even as the pot continued simmering over an hour or so. I didn’t touch the accompany bowl of rice that came with the hotpot, the noodles were good enough to satisfy. I also liked how the broth didn’t start off over-seasoned, I can’t stand hotpot broths that’s overloaded with salt and MSG because it gets even worse as the soup evaporates. This was a really pleasant, slow-paced meal with good conversation.
We had a kimchi pancake $10 to go with our pleasure-pot of conviviality. It arrived typically oily and heavyish, reminiscent of Japanese okonomiyaki. I’m usually not too fond of these types of pancakes, but having the kimchi version was a great choice, because it helped counterpoint the cleansing nature of our hotpot. So in this situation, I liked it!
Service was on the disengaged and perfunctory side, typical of many Asian joints. After I waved them over to take our dessert order, the guy just took away the hotpot set-up, and left the rest behind. Ugh… eating dessert with all that finished clutter. Tsk… but I guess at such reasonable-ish prices, you can’t ask for the world. You can only hope for a little bit more attentiveness.
There was quite a wait before the green tea hodduk (Korean pancakes) and black sesame ice cream $8 arrived. It was quite a dense, tall and slightly savoury pancake, with what looked and tasted like dried figs as its filling. When eaten with the ice cream, it was not bad. The ice cream sat on a water cracker… odd, lol. Interesting dessert… no clue as to its authenticity, but I’m glad I tried it.
So yes, here’s the ‘civilised’, non-smoky downstairs section of Hallah. I’m in no hurry to try Korean BBQs or Korean fried chickens in the near future, but after my heartwarming pork-spine soup experience at Mr Lee and today’s meal at Hallah, I’m keen to try more Korean-style hotpots.