Quite difficult to tippytoe alongside my Brapanese brothers, I identify instead with any of the tourist or ESL populations of Japanese, Korean, Chinese Mainlander and, other Oriental nationalities when convenient. Most often, Korean. *strikes the classic Korean V-sign pose*
With the Korean Wave came a slew of Korean restaurants mushrooming all over The Island allowing the appreciation for Korean culture and cuisine beyond Koreanovela kitchen and dining scenes. While I could care less about the melodrama, funky fashion and, repetitive riffs in the music, I am a fan of their food. High on my list is the now defunct Dakimong Chicken Restaurant followed by every Samgyupsal operation along Salinas Drive and Assi Mart for hangover instant noodles, (what used to be the only shop selling) Melona and fancy Korean Ice Creams.
One of my favorite cousins, Arvin, tipped me off on a new Korean resto find and I set out with The PussyKat one Wednesdate. 4.15. Four One Five. Sairo. Oppang jang. Sounds like the makings of yet another KPop hit.
4.15 Dining Room, Home of Authentic Korean BBQ. Read Four-One-Five, Sa-i-ro and, alternatively, Oppang Jang, is (to quote, Love) a “carbon copy” of a restaurant by the same owner, “Lyn”, in Busan, Korea and is so named after Lyn’s April 15th birthdate. In yet another play on industrial chic, bare finished concrete walls and floors serve as a blank space for a dotting of silver steel drum stools and tables. Exposed exhaust pipes crisscross the equally bare ceiling interrupted every few square feet by pendant lights. The Korean novelty begins with the seat cushions coming off to reveal storage space for the patrons bags and other items. Chalkboard menus in English and Korean occupy opposite walls while a canopied prep counter takes up the rear towards the kitchen. The upright air conditioning unit on the far corner is in perpetual Movember and a clock face is projected on a wall. Of course, we were serenaded by the latest KPop ballads broken every other song by their more danceable genres.
This is Love. Love love’s her job as it bleeds from her enthusiastic manner of delivering quite detailed information about the restaurant and the food, all while serving and cooking, without skipping a beat. Having been walked through the entire menu, including the acrylic mounted photos of the different kinds of meat adorning a wall, we ordered a Pork Belly and a Marinated Skirt Steak.
Off came the covered table center and a tin pail of live coals was lowered into the recess. A troughed ring was set above where beaten eggs was poured into one side and the other filled with Kimchi, Radish Kimchi and Korean Bean Sprout Kimchi. Keeping up her chatter, Love explained that the pork cuts are not as uniform as you would usually get from your local butchers or grocery meat sections. Everything is cut by hand as precision cutting machines will have some effect on the integrity of the meat and its flavor. All ingredients here, and equipment, are washed with distilled water, again, to maintain the purity of tastes.
Chopped salads of lettuce with Kimchi and sweet chili-sesame dressing took up space with a generous bowl of Lettuce and Pechay included to wrap the meat in with the sauces, garlic slices and chilies. The Junuleoj was an onion sauce out of sliced onions and sesame seeds in sesame oil coming off pungent with the nutty notes from sesame. The fermented chili paste Sanjang gave out a winey heat.
The Pork Belly or Samgyeopsal was extremely tender and had that natural porcine sweetness I often mention. Untouched by marinade, the cooked meat was to be enjoyed with the variety of condiments which we did.
More live coals were added to maintain the heat and the grill plate was replaced with a wire grill. Galmaegisal or Beef Skirt came next. The well-marbled, red meat sizzled to a soft well done. Again the meat was not marinated allowing the enjoyment of the natural meat taste. The same condiments as in the pork belly worked well with the beef, as well. I may have understood their stand on hand-cutting and distilled water-washing at that point with the registry of full meat flavors.
I was good with all the meats and vegetables and The PussyKat just had to have her rice. Fragrant Ganador was topped with an inclusive fried egg. Add-ons are available for extra.
Lyn and Love deftly flit from one table to the other of the three occupied at the time of our visit. Lyn shared that her son was studying English here. She loves Cebu and thought of bringing some Busan goodness over starting with 4.15 and (“to be continued”) a Korean Noodle Bar opening sometime later this year. The highly personal and personalized experience at 4.15 is something to go there for on top of great Korean food. The only challenge was how to call on Love for anything without getting The PussyKat’s death stare:
“Love! Love! Lov…erm… Um. Miss, misss! Excuse me, misss. Bill please, misss. Thank you, missss…”
4.15 Dining Room, Home of Authentic Korean BBQ is located at FLC Center, 888 Hernan Cortes, Subangdaku, Mandaue City.