Mr. Dakgalbi

Update: This business has ceased its operations.

Mr. Dakgalbi Pan Grilled Chicken Restaurant is located along Jalan Bukit Bintang of downtown Kuala Lumpur. This is a Korean franchise with three outlets in Klang Valley, others being Solaris Mont Kiara and Setiawalk in Puchong. None in Penang though, at least not yet.
Our visit to this Bukit Bintang branch is being greeted by a friendly Korean couple. I have not been to Korea, but I heard stories of friendly Koreans who you often meet at the streets. Our visit to Mr. Dakgalbi reinforces my positive impression of Koreans.

Mr. Dakgalbi is a pork-free restaurant. Most dishes are grilled, so there is a hot plate station at each dining table. The grills are fired using cooking gas instead of electricity. The interior of the restaurant is welcoming indeed. The cashier counter is decorated with interesting trinkets from Korea, plus a number of photographs of happy customers before.
Like most Korean restaurants, an assortment of side dishes (반찬) serves as appetizer. Most banchan varieties are based on kimchi (김치); the most popular being baechu kimchi (배추김치) which is made from napa cabbage.
The choices offered at Mr. Dakgalbi is quite limited. This is a minor let down; we were hoping for at least 3 different dishes. On the positive side, we find the baechu kimchi very succulent and well prepared.
The word "dak galbi" (닭갈비) means "chicken ribs", although ribs are never used in this dish. Dak galbi is popular among younger Korean demographics because it is relatively inexpensive and the cooking technique promotes social togetherness during the grilling process.

Our order of Mr. Dakgalbi Couple Set (RM48.00) is meant for 2 persons, as the name obviously implies. This set meal consists of 2-person portion of Mr. Dakgalbi which normally costs RM19.00 per person. The set includes fried rice and a choice of additional ingredient, which we chose cheese.
The main ingredient of dak galbi is chicken chunks marinated in gochujang (고추장). Gochujang is Korean-styled chili paste made from rice, soybeans and red chili.
Other ingredients of the dak galbi are garaetteok (가래떡, Korean rice cakes), cabbage, potatoes, onion and scallion (spring onion). Cabbage play an important role to the grilling process because it retains juiciness and sweetness of the overall dish.
An apron is provided for each customer to shield against oil splatter from the hot plate. Actually I think this is unnecessary because the heating is usually well-controlled and there is a shield too. Besides, the waiting staff handles the laborious grilling; customers can just sit back and relax.
The pungent flavor of gochujang marinate makes the chicken tastes very savory. We feel that the chicken is purely addictive thanks to the lovely marinate. We are also comfortable with the spiciness level here, but I think this may be excessive for some customers. Perhaps the restaurant should allow customers to select the level of spiciness before the meal.
When you are halfway through the meal, remember to hail a waiter because fried rice is the second part of the meal! White rice (with additional gochujang) and grated cheese are added to the remaining portion of dak galbi for the next round of grilling.
The fried rice is no less enjoyable than the chicken itself. Using short-grained rice typical in Korean restaurant, the waxy coating of each grain prevents rice from being mashed up while cooking. When heated, cheese melts to form sticky strands that hold the rice grains together. This is quite an enjoyable meal; we made the right call to choose cheese as the additional ingredient.
For side orders, we tried the Seafood Pancake (RM17.00), also known to Koreans as "pajeon" (파전). The main ingredients are flour, eggs, shrimp, squid, red chili and scallion (spring onions). A saucer of soy sauce with sesame seeds serves as dipping sauce.
The pajeon is abundant with red chili, so it may be too spicy for people who are unprepared. While the egg-and-flour batter is reasonably well-prepared, we feel that squid and shrimp are too sparse to contribute much flavor. Instead, the taste is dominated by copious amounts of scallion. Overall, the pancake is fairly well flavored but pales in comparison to dak galbi.
For drinks, we tried a glass of Aloe Korean Beverage (RM5.00). This is just a normal fizzy drink with aloe vera chunks; I think Mr. Dakgalbi should introduce more specialized Korean beverages. We also ordered a can of Coca-Cola (RM1.00) due to the ridiculously low price.
Despite the fact that Mr. Dakgalbi is located at the heart of the metropolis, the restaurant does not draw as many customers as it deserves. One possible reason is the lack of parking spaces in this part of the city. Besides, nearby shopping malls tend to draw customers away from the row of shops. Food-wise, I think Mr. Dakgalbi has this well-covered. What it really needs is just publicity.

By the way, when we were making payment at the cash register, the lady proprietor offered us a couple of complimentary Korean facial masks. This is very generous of her!