Togi: Go Korean!
Reviewed by : Vivien Goh. Other Foodadvisor Writers?
The Chinatown area is known for Chinese New Year goodies, travel agencies and local gastronomic delights. Little-known, however, is a little gem of a Korean restaurant, located in the confines of Mosque Street . With its somewhat nondescript exterior, it is easy to write it off as yet another airconditioned kopitiam
. In actual fact, Togi, which has been open for 4 years, serves an authentic spread of Korean favourites at reasonable prices. With a new franchise opened at East Coast, this humble eatery looks set to go places.
- The Vibe
Though the premises are somewhat rundown, you can tell that effort has been made to make the dining experience as Korean as possible. Little intricately-costumed Korean dolls adorn the small shelves, and paper lanterns on which Korean words are scrawled are visible on the ceiling. Pictures of smiling Korean adults and children decorate the walls, making it not difficult to imagine yourself lunching in Seoul . The mismatched tablecloths as well as furniture might leave a negative impression on some, but for most, the mismatch adds to the homely atmosphere owner Julie has created.
- The Food
The menu has a good range of Korean favourites that most locals have tried one time or another, as well as some lesser-known dishes. As a testament to the authenticity of the food, Korean expatriates were at the next table when the SD team visited.
Upon your order, don't be surprised when you are served a jaw-dropping range of side dishes that you don't remember ordering; these are complimentary upon any order of a main course. Consisting of mostly vegetable dishes like asparagus, cucumber, kimchi and beansprouts done Korean-style, the zesty twinges on your tongue will titillate the palate for more to come. Refills are available, complimentary of course.
For the uninitiated, perhaps a good introduction to Korean food is the Dol Sot Bi Bim Bab ($10), which consists of vegetables, beef, mushroom, egg and rice, served steaming and fragrant in a hot stone bowl. Mixed with Korean-style chilli, the result is a literal melting pot of colours and flavours that you just can't get enough of. Reminiscent of Singaporean fried rice, the experience is an oddly comforting one.
The more adventurous can try the Sam Gyeup Sal ($18.50), or barbecued pork belly served with lettuce, garlic, onion and potatoes. The ingredients are presented raw and separately, complete with a barbecue set. Do let the staff cook the pork for you, as this will ensure best results. Wrapped in your choice of lettuce, garlic and onion, with a dab of chilli, the fattiness of the pork is offset by the healthier accompaniments. Crispy and tasty, the fat-lined pork belly is sinfully delicious.
Older patrons may like the Ginseng Chicken Soup($20), which is superbly fragrant and piquant with ginseng. A healthy choice, the generous chunks of chicken, simmered in a distinctively herbal soup will please any foodie eager for home-made chicken goodness.
If you like your food spicy, the Soon Du Bu(silken tofu soup with seafood) is just the thing for you. The lava-like colour is a clue to the explosion of fiery flavour that you experience with just a spoonful. Chock-ful of crab meat, egg, prawn and tofu, it is substantial enough to be a one-dish meal when taken with rice. Try it on a cold day when the spicy, tangy flavours will be heaven going down your throat.
- The Service
The owner Julie will greet you with traditional Korean hospitality, and is quick to recommend favourites of the menu. Service staff number about four due to the small premises, and seemed a tad frazzled during the busy lunch hour. However, credit must be given for their helpfulness in barbecuing and topping up the drinks.
The SD Food Advisor's Take on Togi:
Perhaps not the place you'd bring someone on a first date, but for a taste of Korea at a price that won't burn a hole in your pocket, Togi is it. It makes up for the shortfall in ambience with its home-cooked Korean food prepared with sincerity, and this keeps customers coming back. Worth at least a visit.