With dozens of Korean-style BBQ restaurants in Hanoi it takes a certain inspiration to open a new establishment. But it does happen. Ideally located in Nguyen Khanh Toan Street, just near the popular Museum of Ethnology in Cau Giay district, Sariwon has been in business for a couple months and has already built up a large and loyal clientele of office workers, hip young locals, businesspeople and, of course, members of the Korean community in the capital.
‘We aren’t a 100% Korean BBQ restaurant but we’re 90% similar,’ said the restaurant’s owner. This is thanks to its talented head chef, Ms Nguyen Thi Thanh Truc, who lived and worked in South Korea as a chef for more than 15 years. She is better known as a ‘Korean resident’ rather than a Vietnamese chef among her colleagues, because of her habit of writing the names of her dishes and sauces in Korean characters.
Walking through its dazzling glass doors, my friend and I soon recognised that the basement of the old Brick House restaurant, where we had lunch a few months ago, has been divided into two parts. On the right is Brick House, serving international dishes and typical Korean snacks. On the left is Sariwon, where diners can enjoy ‘nearly authentic’ dishes, with soft couches and smokeless BBQ tables in a row. At the back is a tiny station where sauces, salads and desserts are on display for diners to choose.
It wasn’t overly busy so we had a choice of where to sit. We picked a table at the front by the window that gave us an unobstructed view of everything that was happening.
We went for the full BBQ buffet, at VND329,000 per person, with 12 beef, pork, poultry and seafood dishes on offer, including US beef rib marinated with Bulgogi sauce, fresh US beef belly, fresh beef brisket, US beef belly with Teriyaki sauce, and smoked duck breast, as well as a hot pot and various desserts.
Within minutes of ordering a charcoal cooker was placed on our table. It was then we noted the restaurant has almost no smoke or smell of grilled meat. Unlike other BBQ restaurants, where a vent is above each table to extract the smoke before it gets in diners eyes, the vents at Sariwon are hidden within the dining table.
Our food arrived and it almost looked too good to eat. The waitress placed a couple of slices of beef onto our barbecue. While my beef sizzled away I made a start on the salad. A short time later the beef was ready, and I lifted it off the barbecue and put into my salivating mouth. The Los Angeles beef rib (served only once during the buffet) was delicious, lightly charred on the outside and pinkish inside and marinated with a scrumptious homemade sauce. Grilled Norwegian salmon with creamy butter and passion fruit sauce was another triumph, but in a modest portion: a finger-sized piece of salmon grilled so perfectly it melted in the mouth like warm ice cream!
Sariwon is definitely worth a visit, even for the least adventurous of diners. Opening hours are from 10am to 10pm daily.
Sariwon Korean BBQ
Lot No 2, Nguyen Khanh Toan St., Cau Giay Dist., Hanoi
Tel: (04) 3839 8610; 0904 508 798
1st Floor, Big C Thang Long, 222 Tran Duy Hung St., Cau Giay Dist., Hanoi
Tel: (04) 3200 5877; 0903 420 469
B1, Vincom, 234 Pham Van Dong St., Cau Giay Dist., Hanoi
Tel: (04) 7300 1081