Take a long throwback probably two decades ago and people in Ipoh will associate Japanese food as one of the luxurious epitome of dining. Then, Sushi King sprung forth for more affordable japanese cuisine at probably half the price and later on, the hawkers and food court stalls also caught the hype and have their imitation offerings at probably another half the price of Sushi King. But bear in mind as the you are paying half or rather a quarter of the price of the original authentic ones, don't expect you will get equal or near similar quality. The same can be said with Korean food in Ipoh. Recently I heard of an attempt of a Korean food operator occupying a Chinese coffee shop during dinner time.
Those residing in Ipoh Garden East or Bercham area would probably know about it. If I mention the name of the coffeeshop called Restoran Alishan, you would not have guessed that it could transform into a " 大牌 档 styles" Korean food. The place is not hard to locate as during the day time, there is a morning "wet market" nearby. And beside this row of shop is where the residential water supply tank is located.
Their operating hours is from 6pm onwards to around 10pm? And they are closed on Mondays. Here is the glimpse of their simple menu. Yes, you have searched high and low - there is no sign of Korean staples like Bibimbap (stone bowl rice) and San Gye Tang (Ginseng Chicken Soup). The options here is indeed very limited as their best seller would definitely be the hot plate BBQ. Nevertheless, the pricing is very affordable and reasonable right?
Coming in a group of three, I picked the Mixed Hot Plate set to test the best of both worlds. I could not reason out how would the set of both the pork belly (individually 200g at RM18) and the Spicy Chicken (RM18 again for 220g) can sum up to RM38 instead of RM36? Probably cause it includes the serving of kimchi, pickled raddish and basket of assorted leafy greens included in the mixed combo? The garlic, chilli, onions and enoki mushroom seems to come standard with the two slab of pork belly. Well, couldn't ask much for something below RM20 right as if you have done marketing or at least keep track or pay for your household groceries, you would've noticed the escalating rate of inflation in our country.
I like the ratio of lean meat to fat for the pork belly served. However, I somehow felt something was missing and I am quite sure it is the smoky charcoal smell from meat grilled over open fire which was evidently not present in the pork belly grilled using inducted heat from a hot plate. The meat, as expected, was not marinaded, hence you will need to depend on the seasoned oil for dipping and a bit of the fermented bean paste. Since they priced the mixed vegetable at RM5, I don't think they have free refills for the leafy greens used to wrap the meat.
Ja Jang Myeon (RM12) comes with a side serving of kimchi. The texture of the noodles did not appeal to my tastebuds. There is too much gravy and the gravy is too starchy to my liking. Should a good plate of Korean black bean paste noodle supposed to be like this? There are some diced onions and potatoes with stewed pork belly cubes. The first time I had a similar dish was my first visit at Doma, which is far smaller in portion and do not have any ingredients except for edamame beans and julienne cucumber. But somehow, that version was my cup of tea.
Lastly, we ordered two bowls of white rice (from the texture, I think not full Calrose rice ratio is used here, since you paying RM2.50 instead of RM5 in Korean restaurants) to be shared to mop up all the chill paste of the savoury and spicy Dak Galbi, which is the other half of the Mix BBQ Hot Plate set. Besides cabbage, there is julienne carrots and sweet potato along a few pieces of dabokki (rice cakes) which is stir-fried with boneless chicken meat. They should use parts like chicken thigh or chicken drumstick instead as I find the chicken meat is somehow quite dry.
A jug of Korean rice tea for RM3 and the total bill comes to RM58! Perhaps its just half or 2/3 of the price of Korean restaurants. The slight draw back would be the coffee shop environment nor any wide range of complimentary and refillable side dishes (banchan). The menu is also limited and service can be a bit slow as there is only 2 person manning the whole outlet. They have a "hidden" menu as shown above whereby there is the missing Korean cuisine staples like Army Stew, Pork Ribs, Ginseng Chicken Soup, Bulgogi, Seafood Soup or Stew and Bibimbap but most would require advanced ordering. The prices of items featured in this menu is in the range of standard Korean restaurant in Ipoh, which I feel I wont be paying for it in this coffee shop environment. Will I be back again, I don't think so. Will I recommend you to try? well, just don't put too much expectation on authenticity and it should be fine.