South Korea has been a hot tourist destination for us Filipinos lately. Aside from it being an excuse to wear fashionista winter clothes and take pictures to post up on our Instagram accounts (#humblebrag), we fly out because of its food we’ve been seeing and hearing so much about. We may not have taste buds built for the spiciness of this cuisine, but we’ve learned to become masochists and have come to enjoy Korea’s fiery staple dishes.
But while you’re still saving up for that plane ticket, here are 10 of Metro Manila’s best Korean restaurants according to looloo reviews. Take this as a practice run and check all of them off the list! Get eating!
10. SHP Bibimbab Cafe & RestaurantAverage Rating: 4.19/5.00
If life is stressing you out with school or work, hugs from the teddy bears in this restaurant might just take the edge off. SHP Bibimbab has come up with the brilliantly cute idea of placing huge, huggable stuffed toys around the place which anyone can pick up for a cuddle. It’s an instant way to turn your sighs and groans into happy shouts of “It’s so adorbs!” and “It’s so fluffy I’m gonna die!”
To comfort you even more, you get Korean food on the cheap here! Their bestseller is their bibimbab which you can get in variations of beef, chicken, spam, tuna, and bulgogi. If you’re in the mood to really eat your feelings, order up a bowl of their Spicy Cheese Ramen and a plate of their Gimbab for a filling meal!
9. Minsok RestaurantAverage Rating: 4.30/5.00
If there’s anything that makes Minsok a hidden gem, it’s the fact that it’s located away from the malls and in an area popularly known as “Backwell”, a portmanteau that describes where it’s located – at the back of Rockwell. Once found, most reviewers return to have more of what they describe as authentic Korean food at very reasonable prices.
And because not many people know about this hole in the wall, it makes for a “nice little discovery” that one can easily put under their list of underrated restaurants in the metro. Their Samgyupsal is pretty popular but if you’re looking for something different, their Jiggae (Korean stew) also comes highly recommended.
Minsok can be found at 5655 Don Pedro St., Poblacion, Makati.
8. Bulgogi BrothersAverage Rating: 4.06/5.00
Bulgogi, which literally translates to “fire meat,” is prepared by shredding beef, marinating the strips in sweet soy sauce, and grilling them to a perfect char. This ubiquitous dish has been around in Korea for over thousands of years now and has inevitably been adapted by fast food chains there, hence the existence of bulgogi hamburgers and pizzas.
In 2011, a restaurant from South Korea found its way here and introduced us to the craze. Bulgogi Brothers serves up numerous variations of the dish, along with other famous Korean sides and entrees. On looloo, the Korean Pork Ribs Bulgogi is a hit for its succulent meat marinated in sweet-spicy sauce. The Unyang Style Bulgogi, made from chuck eye roll cuts of beef shaped into perfect hearts, is another popular choice.
Bulgogi Brothers has several branches all over the metro.
7. Makchang Korean RestaurantAverage Rating: 4.31/5.00
In Korea, it’s easy to identify a good grill restaurant when you spot one. Lively chatter punctuated by shouts for more servings, tables covered in bowls and plates of food, and air that constantly smells of barbecued meat are the usual signs. Makchang is one such restaurant, and fortunately for us, it’s found in Ermita, Manila.
Just like any authentic Korean place, it uses a charcoal grill to cook its meat. As explained by Stephie Karen K. on her looloo review, the charcoal enables the grill to reach higher temperatures, allowing for better charring and flavoring of the beef or pork strips.
At Makchang, you get endless barbecue possibilities but their bestsellers are the Beef Galbi, which are marinated short ribs and the Samgyeopsal, thin cuts of pork belly. The best way to eat them is to wrap them up in lettuce along with a dollop of kimchi ssamjang sauce.
Makchang Korean Restaurant can be found at Adriatico St. cor. Pedro Gil St., Malate and at Hobbies of Asia, Diosdado Macapagal Blvd., Pasay.
6. Kim N’ ChiAverage Rating: 4.34/5.00
Kim N’ Chi is for the difficult days when your wallet’s low on cash but your stomach’s begging you to feed it good food. An easy favorite among the stalls in the Glorietta 4 food court, this restaurant is known for its ability to whip up meals that not only satisfy cravings for Korean flavors but also leave Filipinos with karpintero appetites feeling full.
On looloo, reviewers have deemed the Beef Bulgogi Omu Rice as a great bang for the buck order. For a mere ₱119, you get a heaping mound of rice and a generous helping of the sweet and salty marinated beef. Gonzalo G. said on his looloo review that as a big boy with a big appetite, the serving was large even for him. Other popular items on their vast menu are the Bibimbap, Squid Bulgogi, and Japchae.
Kim N’ Chi has mall branches all over the metro.
5. Masil Korean Charcoal Grill RestaurantAverage Rating: 4.53/5.00
Being that it is a charcoal grill restaurant, the tendency here is to sit entranced as cuts after cuts of beef and pork get flipped over and over again in front of you. But challenge yourself to take a break from the charred meat and order the Korean dishes that are usually overshadowed by the glistening strips of barbecue. At Masil, their painstakingly cooked entrees deserve space in your stomach too!
The Galbi Jjim, also known as Korean Beef Stew, is often eaten on special occasions, but you can have this dish anytime at Masil. According to Charlotte Mae L. on her looloo review, it’s fall-off-the-bone tender and very tasty with hints of sweetness. If you’re a fan of spicy soup, you need to get the bowls of Kimchi Chigae and Sundubu Chigae here. Expect to sweat buckets but the addicting heat will make you want to keep on slurping. Their Dolsot Bibimbap is also a popular order, loved for the vibrant colors and freshness of the vegetables.
Masil Korean Charcoal Grill Restaurant can be found at 100 Oranbo Drive, Pasig.
4. Korea Garden RestaurantAverage Rating: 4.47/5.00
This one’s an oldie but a goodie. It was in 1952 when Kim Chung Ae (now known as Fideliza Florez) left her hometown in South Korea and moved to the Philippines to marry the love of her life. She brought along her passion for cooking with her and introduced our palates to her homeland’s unique flavors, which our taste buds quickly took to. Korea Garden was the country’s pioneer in Korean cuisine and us foodies are forever grateful for it!
Korea Garden has been consistently good with its food over the years. Loyal customers keep coming back especially for its Nakchi Bogum, a dish made up of tenderly cooked octopus made to swim in a red chili-based sauce. The octopus is said to be the softest you’ll ever have in your life! Their Korean Beef Stew is another no-fail pick here, with the same sweet flavor and succulent meat it has had since the beginning.
Korea Garden Restaurant can be found at 128 Jupiter St., Jupiter, Makati.
3. Sariwon Korean BarbecueAverage Rating: 4.31/5.00
And so the Korean food invasion continues! But who’s complaining? Sariwon is the most famous bulgogi chain in South Korea and by some stroke of luck, they picked Metro Manila to house their first international branch.
The woman we owe all the deliciousness to is the legendary Mrs. Bun-Im Koo who developed Sariwon’s secret bulgogi marinade in 1938. Her recipe eventually got discovered by food critics who deemed it as the best they’ve ever tasted. As the only restaurant to serve bulgogi and galbi in this one-of-a-kind sauce, we Filipinos certainly can’t help but feel a little special that Sariwon is here in the country.
For the ultimate Sariwon experience, be sure to get an order of the Seng Galbi, premium USDA choice beef short ribs, and the Deungsim Yangnyeom Bulgogi, USDA beef slices marinated in honey. And yes, you can knock yourselves out with the banchan because every dish is refillable!
Sariwon Korean Barbecue can be found at Bonifacio High Street Central, 7th Ave. cor. 28th St., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig and at Greenhills Promenade, Annapolis St. cor. Missouri St., Greenhills Shopping Center, San Juan.
2. Ye DangAverage Rating: 4.33/5.00
You know a Korean restaurant in the Philippines is legit when you feel like a foreigner in your own country! With the large groups of Koreans who frequent this restaurant, we feel almost out of place at Ye Dang, but this shouldn’t stop us from getting our fix of authentic Korean food. We could even take dining here as a cultural immersion of sorts and learn a bit more about our Southeast Asian neighbors.
Ye Dang has all the popular Korean dishes we could ever crave for. If you’re going for the grilled meats, be sure to pair them with a refreshing bowl of their Bibimbap loaded with different kinds of vegetables and mushrooms. Other favorites you can’t miss are the Japchae (stir-fried starch noodles with vegetables and beef) and the Tteokbokki (rice cakes in sweet red chili sauce).
If you’re feeling more adventurous and would like to go beyond the usuals, an order of the Yook Hoe will help you step out of your comfort zone. This dish of raw egg and beef atop a bed of turnips is seasoned with various spices and sauces and will make you feel like a true Korean!
Ye Dang Korean Restaurant can be found at Goldpark Center, 88 Meralco Ave., Ortigas Center, Pasig.
1. Jang Ga NaeAverage Rating: 4.41/5.00
As creatures of habit, we tend to stick to the food places we’ve tried and tested countless times. And Jang Ga Nae seems to be the restaurant that everyone keeps going back to when cravings for Korean food arise. Loyal customer Mikko F. said on her looloo review that she’s been eating here at least once a month for the past 2 years! Even if you come with same group of people and order the same set of food each time, Jang Ga Nae never gets old with its big servings, bold flavors, and welcoming atmosphere.
Jang Ga Nae is owned and managed by Koreans and most often than not, the place is packed with Koreans, a testament to the authenticity of the dishes here. They have a wide array of house specialties and some of them are the Jap Che, Mul Neng Myun (cold noodles in beef soup), and Sun Du Bu Jjige (soft tofu spicy stew). If you’re in the mood to grill away, you can’t go wrong with orders of their Wu Sam Kyup (beef belly), Sam Kyup Sal (pork belly), and Cha Dol Bagi (thin slices of beef).
Jang Ga Nae can be found at 8137 Plaza, Escriva Drive, Ortigas Center, Pasig and at Aguirre Ave., BF Homes, Parañaque.
*This list has been updated to include SHP Bibimbab Cafe & Restaurant. It initially had Sam Won Garden in the #6 spot but said restaurant as of this writing is temporarily closed with no definite date of reopening.