Sam Won Garden: Korean Barbecue without the Fuss

With the number of Korean expatriates living in the Philippines, Korean restaurants are now a dime a dozen, becoming almost as common as your friendly neighborhood lechon manok / liempo stalls. Fortunately for these restaurants, Filipinos have taken to Korean cuisine like ducks to water, so a lot of them have built steady clienteles by mere virtue of word of mouth. One popular Korean restaurant tucked in BF Homes, Paranaque is Sam Won Garden.

Sam Won Garden - Usamgyup & Samgyupsal

Meat! Meat! Meat!

At Sam Won, each table is fitted with a tabletop charcoal grill and a pull-down exhaust fan. Despite the proliferation of tabletop grills, the place is relatively smoke-free, probably due to the exhaust set-up. It’s quite wonderful, really, enjoying Korean barbecue without smelling like a barbecue pit yourself afterwards.

Sam Won Garden - Sides

Your standard side dishes

As is standard with Korean restaurants, a parade of sides were the first to arrive on our table. Caramelized baby potatoes, kimchi, pickled radish, fishcake, bean sprouts, sweetened dilis — a lot of them, I don’t even recognize but we gamely tried them all. Aside from the sides, we were also given a helping of salad in a Korean-style vinaigrette. The store’s proprietor approached our table, extolling the virtues of the veggies in the salad. Apparently one of them is Korean kinchay (unless I heard incorrectly) and it’s great for blood circulation.

Sam Won Garden - Salad

Complimentary salad

Soon enough, out came a cart of beef and pork. We ordered the usamgyup or beef belly and the samgyupsal or the pork belly. The usamgyup was thinly sliced, much like sukiyaki-cut beef but in bacon-sized proportions. The samgyupsal was on the thicker side, like a whole slab of pork belly cut into thick bacon. What surprised me when the meat came was how one of the servers started cooking for us! She started laying the meat and the garlic on the grill, making sure each piece of well-marinated meat was cooked perfectly. No trial and error for first-timers here. Just yummy meat goodness, tucked in a fresh lettuce leaf, slathered with ssamjang, and a bit of grilled garlic. The rolls made with paper-thin pickled radish and Kkaennip (perilla leaves) were lovely too.

Sam Won Garden - Samgyupsal

Samgyupsal on Kkaennip

Our server was especially helpful, making suggestions on what to pair, telling us what sauces to use — even grilling kimchi for me when I mentioned I’m not a fan. The grilled version was supposed to be less spicy, but for me, what did the trick was that it wasn’t as pungent as the usual kimchi.

Sam Won Garden - Sides

The parade of side dishes never end!

Another dish we ordered was the dolsot bibimbap. This mixed rice dish was cooked in a dolsot or a traditional stone pot. Our server asked whether we wanted it spicy, to which we said yes. She added a generous dollop of gochujang (spicy chili paste), then mixed it well, making the raw egg cook from the retained heat of the rice and of the pot. The effect was a sticky, tender mixed rice made creamy by the egg, with requisite burnt bits at the bottom. One can live on this dolsot bibimbap alone!

115:365 Dolsot Bibimbap

ILU Dolsot Bibimbap!

Aside from the beef and pork barbecues and the dolsot bibimbap, we also ordered for some japchae, that sweet, sesame-laced Korean glass noodle dish. We found ourselves too full with the other dishes though, so we ended up just eating a few mouthfuls of the japchae. Seeing our leftovers, the owner approached us, telling us that the best way to enjoy leftover japchae was to mix it with fried rice. How’s that for value added?

Sam Won Garden - Japchae

The forlorn japchae. It was good, but we liked the other stuff more.

Our lunch at Sam Won Garden was absolutely wonderful. Despite it being a hot summer’s day, the place was cool enough and smoke-free enough to make the meal enjoyable. The dishes were packed with flavor, making me promise myself to return for the usamgyup and bibimbap. The only two problems that I see with Sam Won is that it’s hard to park since their spaces are very, very limited, and the fact that I was craving for the same dishes a few hours later. But then, I guess that can be remedied by another visit, right?

Sam Won Garden is at 226 Aguirre St., (cor Ramirez) BF Homes, Parañaque City. Phone number (02) 825-1144.
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9 Responses to Sam Won Garden: Korean Barbecue without the Fuss

  1. joey says:

    What a spread! I’ve been to a Korean place much like this one but in Makati…a little hole in the wall, so little we couldn’t even figure out the name! But it was so good! I love wrapping the grilled meats in that leaf :) And I am a solid kimchi lover :)

    • kaoko says:

      I’m not as big a fan of kimchi, but after this one, I think I can slowly be converted. It’s mostly because of the smell though. It used to stink up our ref! But I don’t mind the flavor — in fact, I agree it goes well with the barbecue. <3

  2. ibyang says:

    i’m just curious…do korean restaurants there have Korean staff?

    an unsolicited fyi: the side dishes are called “Banchan”
    and on that note, do they refill the Banchan dishes?

    I hope there will be more Korean BBQ restaurants in Manila :)

    • kaoko says:

      This particular one had Filipino staff but Korean owners who went around the resto, hopping tables. I don’t know about refilling the Banchan though (I learned something new today!), since we were relatively slow / light eaters and didn’t really request for refills. And there are a lot of Korean BBQ places na talaga. I’m sure you can try a different one every week.

  3. AC Alegre says:

    Last November 24, my family and I chose to have a light dinner at Sam Won. We were a group of seven, and we ordered 2 bbq dishes. The waitress refused to serve us unless we ordered a minimum of FIVE dishes, and she refused to give us the one serving–ONE serving of veggie sides.

    They may have great food, but I think it a politician or a celebrity chose to eat as lightly as we did, they would not have been treated as shabbily as we were treated.

    Very disappointing. I’ve been to restaurants – first class, second class, and hole-in-the-wall kinds here and abroad. NONE, absolutely none were as rude as this one.

    And… the waitress even said it was a POLICY of SAM WON to refuse us because we did not order enough. Sad commentary on their customer service.

    Thank you, Sam Won, for being a prime example of how not to treat your customers.

    AC Alegre
    B.F. Homes resident.

    • kaoko says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your experience. Unfortunately, I am not connected in any way with the establishment. Perhaps you should bring it up directly with management — who knows, they might revisit their policies.

  4. Jin says:

    I am curious about this restaurant and I want to try the korean dishes 😉
    May I know how to reach the resto? (I’ll be coming from puregold southland)
    Thank you. 😀

    • kaoko says:

      I’m not sure about getting there through the Southland gate, but if you’re passing through the Standard / Toyota Alabang Gate, go straight along Concha Cruz until you get to the Menlo Park Homes intersection. Turn right then go along that street until you reach the major intersection (not sure but we think there’s a new 7-eleven there. There’s a Dog Spa & Hotel there too, but I’m not sure if you can see this from across the intersection). This should be Aguirre. Turn left here then keep your eyes peeled for Sam Won. It’s along the right side of the road. You shouldn’t reach the church (Presentation of the Child Jesus) because if you do, you’ve overshot it already. I hope it’s clear enough. Sorry I can’t be more descriptive, I don’t usually drive so I don’t pay much attention to the road ^_^

  5. Pingback: Sam Won (BF) | Dolce Vita

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