Wang Dae Bak was recently picked by HGW as the best Korean restaurant in Singapore. Although I have a policy of reserving my Korean food-indulgence for only when I'm in South Korea, the rave reviews given to the CBD-adjacent restaurant definitely got me curious. Enough to venture into the hole-in-the-wall at the hip Amoy Street enclave on a bustling week night.
The narrow galley of a restaurant was smoky, cramped, and felt so confined it veered towards claustrophobic. The clincher was the lack of alcohol, because Wang Dae Bak hadn't gotten a liquor licence. In spite of the abundance of soju posters liberally plastered all over the busy restaurant. Suffice to say, Wang Dae Bak is a no place to linger after a meal. You're best served heading off to one of the bars down the road, for a post-meal booze-up.
Food-wise, Wang Dae Bak was a hit-and-miss. Stews were commendable, and the kimchi was perhaps one of the best outside of the Korean peninsula, but the barbecue was so-so. A downside: the staff didn't assist to cook our meats, unlike most restaurants (both in Seoul and Singapore), which was disappointing.
There was a total of six banchan, which were worthwhile. The kimchi, made in-house, was excellent; and so were the chilled marinated tofu, sesame fishcake, and pickled green chilli. Strictly as a matter of perference, I wasn't a big fan of the seaweed or potato.
Although the barbecue sets are slated for 2 persons, a massive platter can feed twice that. Especially if you're supplementing the barbecue with other ala carte dishes. The Set Menu B ($48) comprising Marinated Prime Rib, Pork Belly, Spicy Chicken, and Marinated Shoulder, was a mixed bag of clunky caveman-quality meats. The beef wasn't exactly melt-in-your-mouth, and the rest of the meats were mediocre.
There are a couple of standouts in the ala carte menu, and amongst them, a must-try, the Kimchi Jjigae ($25 for large). Grounded in an anchovy stock base, and dotted with decadent chunks of pork belly and beancurd, this was spicy, bold and refreshingly piquant.
Another classic, the Soondubu Jjigae ($25 for large) was a bubbling cauldron of spicy-sweet broth swimming with a seafood hodgepodge of fresh clams, squid, and shrimp, and complemented with silky beancurd, zucchini, and egg drop. Scrumptious to the last drop.
The Kimchi Pancake ($19) was a thick fluffy disc weaved with diced onion and kimchi nubbins, embellished with beautifully golden crusty edges. Another must-order.
The vegetable stir-fry Japchae ($8) fell flat, a middling pile of too-fat noodles, insipid seasoning, and miserly cache of julienned vegetables. Finding Wally would have been a far easier process than hunting down another strand of cabbage. Give this a miss.
Wang Dae Bak Korean BBQ Restaurant
98 Amoy Street
Tel: 6226 0450
Open Mondays to Saturdays from 11.30am to 2.30pm for lunch; 5.30pm to 10.30pm for dinner
Closed on Sundays