Somebody once told me that cheating at school doesn’t pay. I don’t remember who it was but from a very young age, brought up in the ultra-strict schooling system in Malaysia where if you’re good, you only get caned and if you’re bad then whee-wooo, we don’t want to go there. So I never cheated for fear of being busted and I earned my rusty and slightly dented B.Commerce crown all by my very own merits.
I was also told, at a later age, that cheating on your partner doesn’t pay. Apparently the grass is always greener til you get there, and usually, someone finds out and your life turns into a massive shitmess. So I never cheated there either.
But no one ever told me about cheating on restaurants. I wish they did, because last week, I cheated on my favourite Korean joint and sneakily went to Naru Restaurant for dinner. It was no where near as good as my favourite and gah! The regret!
Lesson learnt: do not cheat on your favourite restaurants.
Koba has been my favourite Korean since all eternity and I seriously go there about once a week. Sometimes twice a week, sometimes twice in one day (I shit you not).
And it’s not like I haven’t tried other Korean restaurants. I’ve been to Arang and one of those uber traditional Korean places under Centrepoint, and believe it or not I’ve even been to Naru before, but for some reason remember it being better than what it was this time.
For starters, the jap chae (stir fried glass noodles with mixed vegetables) was really soggy. Koba’s is light and fairly dry with just the right amount of sauce. Granted, I don’t actually know what a “real jap chae” is meant to taste like but I know my tastebuds and they tell me that soggy just don’t cut it.
And then there’s the dolsot bibimbap (rice, vegetables, beef and chilli sauce mixed in a stone bowl) which looked promising but somehow didn’t quite hit on the taste like a Koba bibimbap.
Now, one thing that differentiates Naru from Koba (for better or worse) is that they don’t offer the on-table BBQ plates. At Koba, each table is adorned with a BBQ hot plate and giant vents (well, you unavoidably smell like kBBQ anyway) and raw meats and seafood are BBQ’d at the table.
Naru however, brings out the meats cooked and this isn’t good or bad, but probably appeals to different patrons. Me? I honestly don’t mind so much but having the BBQ plates does make for something interesting (other than your richly intriguing and fabulous dinner buddies of course!).
So my friend and I ordered the kalbi (BBQ beef ribs) which is an all time Koba favourite of mine. I have to say, the Naru kalbi didn’t disappoint, the meat was tender and the sauce a delightful combination of sweet and salty. It was also served on a hotplate with a little flame burner (ok you don’t know this but I’ve just typed burger twice. That tells me something) to simulate a BBQ.
Our second meat dish was the kalbi jjim (traditional Korean beef stew with vegetables and chestnuts) which we both found to be delicious in our first mouthfuls but quickly became too salty and gooey. Not really a winning dish for me, but I can see how it might work for some.
We rounded up our Naru meal with dessert which at one point in time I would have said was better than Koba simply for the fact that they offered dessert at all. But hello, a couple of months ago, Koba introduced a new dessert menu which includes a variety of ice creams and cakes and honestly? Koba is now He-man. Master of the Universe. Yeah.
The Naru desserts were “interesting” and I say interesting the way someone might describe a one eye’d, one leg’d freak. Just as they’re about to set you up on a blind date.
They sounded exciting enough – bae sook (slowly boiled pear served in honey) and well being tiramisu (sweet red bean, carrot and green tea ice cream).
The bae sook would probably have been ok had it not completely tasted like cinnamon (I know, it doesn’t look it, but it was seriously like eating cinnamon flavoured pears) and the well being tiramisu was… “very interesting”. A tower of mushed green tea cream, red bean and carrot topped with of all things a slice of kiwi fruit, it was just bizarre and I probably could have enjoyed the taste but the texture was strangely powdery and a little off putting.
Anyway, I don’t know if I’ve been particularly harsh on Naru because I knew I could have gotten a better meal at Koba for less, but if I dig deep within me and seek guidance from the recesses of my stomach, I think I do have to stand by my opinion that Koba is leagues better than Naru in service, menu, ambience, food and value for money.
So you know, the grass looked greener til I got there, but I’ve learnt my lesson.
ps. oh the kim chi at Naru was very good.
pps. I really need to write an updated post on Koba
230 Shaftesbury Avenue
Covent Garden, WC2H 8EG
0207 379 7962