Monday, April 23, 2012

MAKING PEACE AT BULGOGI BROTHERS





        Over the past couple of years, I've shared with you my love-hate relationship with "The Bistro Group", the organization that has brought to our country some of the best restaurants chains from around the world, (Fridays, Italianni's, Fish and Co.,  etc..). 

        My love for them springs from the quality of their food and service. I can safely say that I haven't had any major standout problem with either. In fact, I would rate their service of their many restaurant as consistently excellent, and food.. well.. their restaurants would not have been successful had they been serving turds on a plate, right?

       The "Hate" in our relationship, comes from me hating the fact that I never got my hard card when I signed up for membership of the "Bistro Frequent Food (BFF)" discount card. Despite numerous follow ups via email and phone calls, I was forced to use a tattered up piece of card board for a year. Though they honored it just the same, I did feel a tad bit short changed  because I never received the actual card. 

       After the card expired, I didn't renew. Instead, I stood at the tip of a mountain top in the dead of the night and screamed at the food gods, swearing I would never EVER return to a Bistro Group restaurant until I they explained to me what happened to my card. 

         
         Yeah, that really didn't work out. 

      Much to the hilarity of the food gods, during the duration of my "boycott", I ended up going to each and every one of those restaurants at one point or another. Sometimes unwittingly (Pig Out, Ma Maison, Stock Market Cafe, Krazy Garlik), and the rest, it was more like.. After seeing a picture on display at the mall.. "Ah screw the boycott! I'm hungry!" (Italianni's, Flapjacks).  

            I recently found out that the Korean BBQ place I had been eyeing in Greenbelt 5, "Bulgogi Brothers", was also part of The Bistro Group. So as my way of "saving face", no matter how enticing the thought of their BBQ would be, I decided that would be my final hold out until I hear an explanation from them.  
     
         Man, was it worth the wait. 


  Just before the Holy Week Break, I got the email I had been waiting for. It might have taken three years longer than it should have, but hey, better late than never, right?

      No less than Miss Lisa, AVP of Marketing for The Bistro Group emailed me to let me know she stumbled across my blog and read about my predicament. She explained that yes, there was problems during the days of the BFF card, and was very apologetic about my experience. 

        She appreciated how I managed to keep my opinions for the food impartial, despite my BFF Card frustrations. She wanted to discuss further the latest developments of the Bistro Group over lunch, and I had mentioned that Bulgogi Brothers was my final holdout from the Bistro Group's roster of restaurants. We set a date wherein both Rina and I were available, and the rest was history.




       When I arrived, Lisa, Rina, and Mitzi, was already comfortably seated and swapping stories (I implored them to make sure they hear MY side of the story first before they believed anything Rina said). 


     Bulgogi Brothers is a popular franchise in Korea, and the Greenbelt 5 branch is the first one outside their shores. They plan to open more branches soon, including one in Mall of Asia. 


     I loved the wooden interiors, and was quite surprised that it wasn't as "smokey" as I imagined it to be (more on that later). For added "Korean" effect, Televisions scattered around are playing K-Pop concerts for the legions of fans out there (Hi Mom!).       

STARTERS


          Lisa suggested that Rina try the Yuja Ade/Citron Ade (P140), which is one of their best sellers. Rina was expecting it to be highly citric drink, but instead, got a refreshing drink that had an amazing balance of acid and sweetness. 



    Something I noticed with Korean restaurants, (like when I went to Kogi Bulgogi), was that they tend to serve a lot of side dish condiments with your meal. Our meal came with Spinach Salad (top right), Pumpkin Salad (Bottom Right), a Corn on the Cob-Sweet Potato-Quail Egg platter (Bottom Left), Kimchi (Top Left), and some sort of Kangkong dish (Center).

       I actually had no idea what to do with the corn, raw sweet potatoes and quail eggs, and everything else was heavily vegetable based so, My personal favorite was the sweet potato salad, almost by default. It was more or less sweet mashed potatoes, but I found myself eating it in lieu of rice.          

      Believe it or not, I tried the Korean Spinach salad, and well... Considering it was a salad, it actually wasn't all that bad (I can't believe I just said that). 


        Lisa highly recommended we try the Haemul Gungjung Mandu (Small 6pcs P450, Large 10pcs P675) which was deep fried dumpling with Seafood Mussels, Squid and Shrimp on the side (actually in this case, it was in the center), and served with a spicy sauce. 


      The wrapper was light and fried to a perfect crisp, and encased a wonderful blend of meat and vegetables inside. I'm glad they separated the seafood and made it more of a garnish, because I actually enjoyed the dumpling alone, without any other condiments 


            While I was walking from my office to Greenbelt, Rina had already chatted up Lisa and Mitzi, and told them that Chap Chae is one of MY favorite dishes. Which was funny because, if you read my Kogi Bulgogi post, I explicitly state how Chap Chae is actually one of RINA'S all time favorite meals. 


        Regardless though, I was glad she spoke up, because Bulgogi Brother's version, Sogogi Japchae (P350) was pretty amazing.


      I noticed something with Bulgogi Brothers. Their goal is to spoil their customers. It's almost as if you're not allowed to do anything for yourself. Normal activities such as cutting your own noodles is done by your attendants. 


         
       The glass noodles were cooked wonderfully.. soft but still had a spring to it, while the mixture of sweetness and salty were balanced just right. I loved the chunks of beef mixed into the meat, especially since it had quite a bit of fat on it. The sides were lined with things that looked to me like "White Rabbit" candy, but were actually called "Rice Cakes".


     I couldn't really get anything from the rice cakes flavorwise, but it didn't matter because I was having the time of my life with the Japchae itself, and Rina pretty much revealed her true colors, declaring Bulgogi Brother's version among the best, if not THE BEST she's ever tried.


            Bulgogi Bibimbap (P395) is a Korean cuisine staple, so I wanted to see how Bulgogi Brother's incarnation fared. At first site, it had the beautiful colors of the carrots, egg, and zucchini, apart from the beef bulgogi itself.  



            Like the Japchae before it, just when I was about to dig in, our lovely attendant did the mixing for us. Once the egg hit the steaming white rice, it cooked it nearly instantly. The medley of vegetables and meat just worked beautifully, and all of a sudden I was scooping the stuff unto my plate.. vegetables, meat, egg.. it mattered not. All I know was that  I wanted my Bibimbap!

KOREAN BBQ





        I didn't realize that Lisa had ordered the Kkotdeungsim Gui (P995 per piece), which is Korean for "Prime Rib Beef Awesomeness", for us all to share. Had I known that she ordered that, I probably wouldn't have ordered the Dwaeji Galbi Gui (P495)





           Our attendant, Trin, came over and placed a cast iron pan on the heating device embedded on every table. Lisa explained that the technology used manages to heat the pan to the necessary cooking temperatures, yet when you touch the sides of it, you won't seem to get burnt. No idea how that works, but it was pretty cool, because she actually did touch it and didn't even flinch.


        Trin spread out some onions, garlic and Sweet Potatoes unto the pan, and cooked them up until they had nice char marks on them.


       Oh yeah, take note, unlike Sambokojin, Bulgogi Brothers doesn't use a smokeless grill, but I noticed the place doesn't have the strong smell of food that restaurants of similar nature does (such as Pepper Lunch). 


       The marbling of the meat was stunning. Beautiful lines of fat were peppered across the meat that was painted with a rich, healthy red color. 



         After allowing my to stare at it for a moment, Trin placed the gorgeous piece of steak on the pan, and the sounds of the sizzle and the smell of the cooked meat was a religious experience for me. She cooked it to a beautiful medium well as per my request, chopped it up with scissors and placed some pieces of it on my plate. (Kulang nalang, subuan nya ako)


        I must say, this was a phenomenal piece of steak. Maybe not to the level of other steakhouses, but it would definitely give them a run for its money, especially for its price.



    Before cooking the short ribs for us, Trin explained that the meat is marinaded in a bath made predominantly of fruits, such as kiwi, lemon, etc. The marinade allowed the flavor of the meat to just pop in your mouth, while giving it a wonderful tinge of sweetness to it. I must have plowed through my share in a matter of seconds.


         The grand finale was the Unyang Style Bulgogi (P595 for 6 pcs, P995 for 12 pcs). Lisa explained that these heart shaped beef patties are considered  a famous Korean "Royal cuisine" in the olden days, before eventually taking the entire country by storm. 


       Trin informed us that this was also marinaded in the same bath as the Short ribs, so it had the same touch of sweetness to it. 





         The onions were placed in the center of the pan with the beef patties circling around it, so that the flavor of the onions would spread out to the meat. Flavorwise, It may have needed a touch more salt and pepper, which is why they give you condiments for it. However, I've got to say that this is easily among the juiciest burger patties i've ever had.   

          The BBQ's came with three different type of dipping condiments with it.. A spicy Sauce, and salt and pepper mix.. and for the life of me, I can't remember the third one. Mainly because I ate all the BBQ's on its own, without any form of sauce (good palusot, no?). 

DESSERTS


           Lisa pointed out that there aren't very many trademark Korean desserts. When Korean Ice cream became popular, It was a no-brainer for Bulgogi Brothers to add it to their menu.


              Rina, chose the one that looked like a fish because it was "so cute". Women. I thought to myself, How appetizing could "Fish Ice Cream" be?



        Apparently, very. When you bite through the fish design, you'll find a creamy vanilla ice cream lined with a sweet red bean paste that kinda reminded me of strawberry. The "fish" itself had the consistency of an ice cream cone, and held together well with every bite. 


           Naturally, I selected the safer choice, which was a Cookies and Cream Ice Cream sandwich. 


            The delicious Ice cream peppered with bits of oreo cookies was sandwiched between a soft sponge cake that surprisingly didn't become soggy as we went along. But then again, between Rina and I, it didn't last very long. 


           Afterwards, Lisa discussed with me the new developments of the Bistro Group, which included the phasing out of the "BFF" card, and introducing the "Bistro Circle Card". The Bistro Circle card also offers a 20% Discount on all Bistro Group establishments, and costs P1,500. While the BFF card used to come with a P1,500 Voucher your can use making the cost of it "consumable",  the Bistro Circle does not. 


       Instead, the Bistro Circle Card comes with a booklet of vouchers from different Bistro Group establishments that gives you more value for your money. Since there are ready printers in every store, you get your card with your name on it, instantly. No more wait, like the BFF card.


     (I'll do a post on this soon!

      I was convinced, so I was just about to tell them I wanted a Bistro Circle Card for myself, ou can imagine my elation when I saw the name on the sample card she was showing us bore the name, "Richie Zamora"!


I just realized I was getting a free Bistro Circles card, 
so you'll have to forgive my goofy smile

        With the receiving of my "Hard Card" the only true bump in the road in my experiences with The Bistro Group, Lisa and Mitzi wanted to rectify that, by providing me a Bistro Circle Card for free! Considering it was great value for money, I told them it was totally unnecessary, and I was more than happy to pay for it. Lisa just smiled and said it was their pleasure! 

       Awesome!!

       In true Bistro Group fashion, the service was faultless and the food was excellent. Though I do have to admit that it is a bit pricey, I enjoyed everything I ordered at Bulgogi Brothers, especially the Japchae and the Prime Rib!

     The whole Bulgogi Brothers Korean BBQ experience is something one must experience for themselves. 
           
        I'm just glad that I've made my peace with The Bistro Group.. now it's time to put this Bistro Circle Card to good use!


      Thank you Miss Lisa and Mitzi for an amazing Lunch!! See you soon! 


     Their newest restaurant, "The Village Tavern" is opening up at Bonifacio High Street very soon so I'm looking forward to using my card there! 

18 comments:

  1. Woah, it's been a while since I've had a Korean fix. Maybe I should grab a Korean lunch later. :)

    Hmm, when are we going to have our food trip?haha. :)

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    Replies
    1. I know! We should set it soon.. sometime by the end of May would be best because I've got a busy three weeks coming up!

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  2. Getting the Bistro Circle card is definitely worth it. Huge savings for the price of P1,500.

    The heart shaped beef patties looks really cute! :)

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    1. Yes it really is.. you get free appetizers from different restaurants, not to mention the 20% discount! Totally worth it for food lovers and food bloggers :)

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  3. They have a branch inside Alabang Town Center Richie. :)

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    Replies
    1. Oh Cool! Haven't been to the south since jan hehe

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  4. i love melona!!! i should go there :)

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  5. that cookies n' cream ice cream is my favourite korean ice cream! HAHA me and my officemates usually visit Rada mart (2 streets away from c.palanca i think) just to satisfy our korean ice cream cravings! :)

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    1. you can get it at Rada? Nice! that's not too far from my office.. I might stop by one time.. see ya there, Zaela! hehe

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  6. BB is my other favorite Korean resto in Makati apart from ARA (along the old Zuellig Loop). I thought it was interesting how they chose Manila to be the first place they branch out to outside Korea. Interesting bits about them is that they have an ex-Presidential chef and titanium utensils. They also pride themselves with excellent service. Did you also get a handwritten thank you note from your food attendant? I agree that it is rather pricey but definitely worth coming back to. I enjoyed the meat but I also think they have the most delicious kimchi jjigae (kimchi stew) I've ever had. I'm a real Korean food fanatic and this is a place you must try if you are too.

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    1. the service was excellent!! I had heard about the love notes on the bill but i didn't get to see the bill.. unless of course Rina intercepted it last minute haha

      Ara sounds interesting! My mom is a crazy korean food fanatic.. actually she's crazy about anything korean.. so I'll take her there as well as Bulgogi Brothers!

      Thanks for the feedback, anonymous! much appreciated :)

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  7. I've been meaning to try Bulgogi Brothers for the longest time! Hopefully I get to eat here soon.. All those food photos are making me crave.. And that Pangtoa ice cream sandwich is my fave!!! <3 I'll try to get a BFF card, and hopefully I wouldn't have to wait 3 years to claim the hard plastic card.. XD

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    Replies
    1. luckily enough, you'll get your card immediately!!

      It's a great deal Sumi!

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  8. The price is a bit expensive. But, it looks really good. First time I've heard of the card. hmm is that transferable?

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    1. Im not sure if it's transferable, but it has your name on it so there's a chance it isn't.

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  9. Waaahhhh....haven't tried Bulgogi Brothers yet, and there are a few more Korean restos to try. Must. Make. Time.
    Oh, and the fish-wafer-ice cream-sandwich is yummy too! I buy those at Puregold :)))

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    Replies
    1. Oh cool! didn't know I could get it there! hehe Thanks!!

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