Restaurant review: Romantic Baka Korean Restaurant
This place might just make you a Korean BBQ fanatic…
We’ve been on the look out for an authentic Korean BBQ, and when we came across Romantic Baka we just knew we had to go. Tucked away in Al Ghurair Centre in Deira, Romantic Baka is owned by the masterminds behind Dampa, serving a plethora of Korean goodies, specialising in Korean BBQ.
Upon entering the buzzing venue, we are greeted with industrial interiors complete with sleek concrete floors and high ceilings exposing a web of air vents and bright red pipes. The simple layout is made urban and edgy with dangling light bulbs, jazzy pops of neon colours and copper extractor vents hovering over each table. As we were guided to our table, funky music added to the atmosphere transporting us alongside the sights and smells to the bustling streets of South East Asia.
Romantic Baka offers a full Korean BBQ spread alongside an array of other Korean and South Asian favourites. Of course, we opted for the Korean BBQ which comes at a humble price of Dhs149 for two to three people, and includes five types of meat, unlimited side dishes, a bowl of rice, plus a refillable Pepsi drink which is served in an adorable tea kettle.
Whilst our server worked his magic on our personal BBQ, which sat centre stage in our table, we perused the menu to select our meats. We opted for a range of plain and seasoned slices of beef and chicken, which had been spiced in kimchi, spicy and BBQ marinades.
Overwhelmed with anticipation, we dove into sizzling the meats on our BBQ using a pair of tongs, whilst the aromas started to fill the air and our tummies began to rumble. We quickly learnt how to man our BBQ, and as we did a flurry of side dishes arrived littering our table with plates of kimchi, fresh lettuce cups, tofu, sausages, potatoes and broccoli. Everyone received a personal trio of condiments, which came as chili sauce, vinegar, freshly sliced garlic and chili, as well as a bowl of rice.
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Once the meats were cooked to our liking, we began sampling different combinations of flavours and textures, experimenting with the sauces and side dishes. We concluded our favourite method was layering a small heap of rice, kimchi, garlic and tender sizzling meat onto a lettuce cup to create the perfect bite of harmonious flavours.
All the meats were tender and rich in their retrospective flavours, with the BBQ chicken, spicy and thinly sliced beef being particular standouts. The signature Korean BBQ was a particular favourite, combined with slices of kimchi, creating a symphony of smokey and sweet flavours paired with an acidic kimchi crunch.
Another unique feature we chose was to add a pot of cheese (Dhs7) to our BBQ, which quickly melted and bubbled into a sauce that we used to dip our beef into. We were told that this is frequently eaten in Korea, reminding us of a European raclette experience.
Alongside the BBQ we had to try Korean staples; tteokbokki (Dhs35), Kimchi Jjigae (Dhs37), kimbap (Dhs32), and chicken ramen (Dhs32). Tteobokki is a rice cake, typically simmered in a sauce using a sweet chilly paste called Gochujang, topped with sliced boiled egg and sprinkled with spring onions. This aromatic spicy concoction had hints of sweetness from the fermented soybeans within the paste, creating the perfect coating for the Ttteokbokki.
The Kimchi jjigae came next, served in a small black pot brimming with a kimchi and tofu stew that fused umami and sweet nodes, creating a gorgeous comforting sharing dish that we frequently dipped our meats in for added flavour. The kimbap and chicken ramen were both delicious but were outshone by the tteokbokki, kimchi jjigae and plethora of dishes that comprised of the Korean BBQ.
Verdict: Romantic Baka is understated and authentic, and well worth a trip to this part of town thanks to its fine fare, wallet-friendly price and welcoming atmosphere.
Romantic Baka, Al Ghurair Centre, Ground Floor Shop 07, near entrance 1, Dubai, 10am to 11pm daily, Tel: (0)52 394 4364, @romanticbaka