Bhesendra Dhakal is Sr Client Servicing Executive at JWT Thompson Nepal. An ardent music fan, he enjoys chilling out with friends to unwind
If you ever wander off into a side-street outside the Hotel Yak and Yeti of Durbar Marg, you will find yourself outside the Arirang Korean Restaurant, tucked away on the first floor of a small building, very easy to miss.
Not being an avid gastronome, when I was first assigned a Korean restaurant for review, I was a bit sceptical. I gave in to the stereotype of unusual animals and insects, served in strange-scented spices. Along with a friend, I decided to pop in there for mid-week lunch.
Ascending the stairs leading to this side-street restaurant solidified my concerns of unappealing, outlandish cuisine awaiting my reserved palate.
However, as soon as we stepped into the restaurant, I was taken aback by vast, yet elegantly simple interiors. With the bar at one end and a stage — presumably for live music performances — at the other end, the tables were distributed across the open floor space. There were small rooms offering private dining and Karaoke spaces. While the restaurant was not too busy, the tables were set far apart enough to keep conversations private. We were led to a small table, adjacent to the farther wall, by a pleasant Korean server, who impressed us instantly with her fluency in Nepali. We soon learned that all the Korean staff were perfectly capable of conversing in Nepali — even more so than English.
We were offered a glass of complimentary Korean tea, which was refilled regularly throughout our meal. First points scored!
Since we were trying this cuisine for the first time, we agreed that we ought to make the most of it by trying an authentic Korean speciality instead of sticking to safer bets. After consultation with the helpful serving staff, we decided on our order.
The Khimchi Cabbage Roll was selected as our entrée, and it did not disappoint one bit. Well-cooked and flavourful, the roll was served on a bed of mildly hot sauce, with sliced cucumbers, seasoned with a hint of spice. It was enough to dispel all our initial inhibitions and invigorated our appetites.
Now, we were looking forward to our main course — Pan-broiled Pork in Oyster Sauce and Pan-broiled Chicken and Pepper. One plate was enough to be polished off by two and we barely managed to avoid wasting the second plate. The pork was delicious and succulent but it was the Oyster Sauce that stole the show — our only complaint being, there wasn’t enough of it to pour liberal servings on our pork. The chicken was less impressive, although quite good. My friend, who enjoys extremely spicy food, delighted in the sliced-up chillies mixed with diced chicken cubes and an assortment of other veggies. However, it was a fairly standard preparation that one might very easily find in other restaurants and did not seem to be extraordinary.
Although the prices were not on the lower side, they seemed reasonable for the size of the portions and quality of preparation.
With tummies full and taste-buds satisfied, we bade goodbye to the cheerful staff with a promise to come back.
ARIRANG KOREAN RESTAURANT RATINGS
Quality of service: 8
Value for money: 7
Overall satisfaction value: 7
A version of this article appears in print on March 24, 2016 of The Himalayan Times.