There are some old school establishments in Dubai, that are a part of most people’s restaurant rotations. One of these is the classic Shogun, in Al Ghurair Center in Deira. This is home to cook it yourself Korean BBQ – Kalbi and Bulgogi are the standards, and some like the chicken and shrimp too. I, being a purist, stick with the standard options. Some nice chill sauce, some crisp lettuce to wrap up the tasty, meaty morsels in, and some kimchi on the side – I’m Golden. Shogun does a good job of bringing this to those of us craving Korean food in Dubai.
So, obviously, when we saw the signs that Shogun was opening in Media City, in New Dubai, we were ecstatic – the wait was on – and on – and on – and on – and on – and on……… A year plus later, we got the call from our friends, who live next door – it was open. Plans were made, cars were loaded, and the short trip was made. Nice set up – obviously some money has been spent on the interior. We were seated, menus were provided and then the news was broken – no permits yet to allow for table side cooking. The food would need to be prepared in the kitchen and then served – ok…….not ideal, but let’s go for it.
Out comes the variety of kimchi – overall, clean, fresh tasting. Can feel the subtleties of the more mild varieties and can feel the punch of the more pungent varieties with ease. Cool and crisp – soft and smooth – I liked it.
Some radish, some carrot – pickled with some chilli, hence the redness. Not overpowering at all, but crisp, and slightly sweet, with a bit of an afterbite.
Bean Sprouts – Very clean flavours – nothing overpowering at all. I like the cool crisp feeling of the sprouts in my mouth. Defined flavours of sesame seed oil provides a background smokiness, which is very pleasant.
Bean Curd and asparagus – Didn’t try this one. Not a fan of bean curd.
This was very tasty – never had eggplant served with kimchi before, but this was slightly stewed, which took away from the meaty texture that can come with eggplant sometimes. Was very tender and cooked through. Nice.
The classic, spicy, vinegared cabbage kimchi. Strong flavours, crispy cabbage, good balance, and not too spicy. A nice punch to the palate.
So why the negativity around the title you ask, if everything was good up to this point. Remember, the kimchi comes out automatically, virtually immediately. We are now about 9 minutes into the ride. Minute 10, disaster.
The first thing we had actually ordered front he menu was spicy tuna rolls, just to get things kicked off. The old Shogun has a surprisingly good sushi chef, so I assumed it would be a similar offering here. Wrong.
Spicy Tuna Rolls – The rice was mushy, the rolls were opening up when dipped in the soy, the tuna just wasn’t seasoned well, and the hot sauce permeated through the rice (as you can see above) rather than staying constricted with the tuna mixture. The parsley garnish was a little odd, also. Ok, so not disastrous, per se, but the foreshadowing on what was to come was unmistakable.
For the main courses, of course we had ordered the Kalbi and the Bulgogi. If any of you have been reading this blog since late last year, you will recall that I take my Korean ribs pretty seriously (https://mytastingmenu.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/an-end-of-summer-pool-party-and-bbq/). When I think Bulgogi I think perfection – a beautifully marbled piece of beef rib, cut thin so the meat is tender, fatty, juicy delicious. According to Wikipedia, “It is listed at number 41 on the World’s 50 most delicious foods readers’ poll complied by CNN Go in 2011″. The flavours are complex – yet simple. Sweet Soy, brown sugar, garlic, onions, sesame oil – classic Korean BBQ flavours. You grill it up so it’s slightly charred on the outside, yet medium rare inside – wrap it up with some rice and chill paste/oil in a crisp cool lettuce leaf and you have perfection. This is what its supposed to look like:
And this is what we got:
Sorry? Are you sure this is the grilled Kalbi? Yes Sir….Kalbi. Think of everything I described above. Forget it. Think greasy, oily, spicy, overcooked, stewed/stir fried, SPICY – this was more dopiaza than grilled Kalbi. Korea with a 200 year stopover in Kerala, onwards to Media City. This was not what I ordered. They gave us the lettuce leaves, but I should have asked for some Naan bread. Terrible – absolutely awful.
Bulgogi – Korea’s most beloved bbq dish. Instead of using a rib, it uses thinly sliced rib eye steak or sirloin steak, but the flavour profile for the marinade is very similar to the Kalbi marinade. Sweet-ish. This is what was served:
This was best described by one of our friends as a fairly decent Tawa Gosht. It was tough, spicy, oily and, all in all – miserable. Just miserable.
The chill oil was the highlight of the meal – it was salty and spicy. I spooned some on my white rice, and filled up on this.
New restaurant – teething pains – I get it. Maybe I should give it another shot – A friend was told by the manager of the original that they were having some trouble with their meat supplier, and hence the inconsistency with the quality. My question: (1) Why serve it (2) Doesn’t justify the horrible flavour/preparation.
I wish I could give it another shot – I really do – but I can’t and won’t. There are too many good options out there for me to go back here again. If I can make it better at home, I’m not about to pay for a mediocre version at a restaurant. Sorry Shogun.
Till Next Time.