Until a few months ago, I used to be very rigid about my food choices. I knew what I liked, strictly denied tasting something I thought I wouldn’t like and barely tried out new cuisines or dishes in general. The past me would’ve probably never agreed to trying out most East Asian cuisines. But after accompanying my friends to a few Japanese, Chinese and Korean restaurants, I’ve developed a liking for these cuisines. That is why I decided to try out Won Korean Restaurant.
It is a relatively new restaurant—launched last September—opened by a Korean couple who has been visiting Nepal for over two decades now. The restaurant is located inside the premises of Hotel Ngudrup at Boudha—a good 10 to 15 minutes walk from the Boudhanath Stupa—but it’s not a part of the hotel.
When I visited the restaurant (which happened to be on a national holiday), it was pretty empty. Gagan Rayamajhi, manager of the eatery, mentioned that they are usually busy during the evenings and that the restaurant is mostly vacant during daytime.
Because I’m not very good with directions and finding new places in general, I got lost for a good 15 minutes before realizing I had passed the restaurant two times already while circling the area trying to find it. Pair that with traveling to Boudha around noon in a stuffy tempo (stopping every five minutes because of traffic jam caused by the celebrations of the festival) for an hour, I was sweating (even though it was technically still winter) when I entered the restaurant and the chilly atmosphere there helped me cool down and feel a little at ease.
The restaurant’s decor is pretty simple with a few pops of color and artwork added here and there. The eatery has white walls with a mural of a man and a woman in traditional Korean hanbok on one of the walls besides an impressive display of all the liquor sold there. All the tables have a grill pan/stove at the center that can be used to heat/cook broth or grill meat and are paired with four chairs in red and black colors. The restaurant can seat about 300 people at a time and customers have the option to choose between indoor and outdoor seating.
I was welcomed with a lukewarm cup of traditional Korean tea as soon as I sat down at a table and a staff member explained that this is a common practice at most eateries in Korea. Then came a number of side dishes—including Gamja Jorim (braised potatoes), tofu, over four different kinds of Kimchi and Sukju (bean sprouts).
A unique aspect of Korean cuisine that I’m fascinated by is the somewhat alarming (in a good way, of course) number and variety of side dishes (or Banchan in Korean) that are served at the restaurants regardless of what you order. I’ve learned that most of these are there to add flavor to the main dishes and they do their job well.
The main course followed soon after. I had a total of four dishes at the restaurant: Theypesamgyeoppsal (Rs 1,000) which is grilled pork belly, a medium portion of Tang Su Yuk (Rs1,500), pork dish with sweet and sour sauce (a chicken version is also available), Tokbokki (Rs 600) which is spicy rice cakes, and Fresh Moksal (Rs 1,000), Korean BBQ of pork neck meat with a glass of apple juice (Rs 140).
Starting with the Tokbokki, I enjoyed biting into the rice cake pieces. They are really chewy and coated in a sauce that is equal parts sweet, sour and spicy. The dish has a nice peppery flavor and pieces of vegetables. The Tang Su Yuk was also very chewy and I personally thought the sauce (and the mixed vegetables present in the dish) were pretty similar to that of the Tokbokki. Both of these dishes are very heavy and I would suggest you try them with the sour and spicy side dishes for additional flavor.
The Theypesamgyeoppsal and Fresh Moksal are both dishes you need to grill before eating. And because this was my first time visiting a Korean restaurant without my friends who are familiar with this cuisine and know how to work a grill for such dishes, I was pretty lost on what to do with the raw meat pieces. Sensing this, a staff member quickly approached my table and did the whole grilling for me explaining the process every now and then so that I know what to do the next time I order such dishes.
He also instructed me on the correct way to eat the meat—which is by wrapping these pieces on fresh green Perilla leaves alongside a few side dishes of your choice which adds a much needed flavor to it. You’re supposed to eat the whole thing in one bite so be mindful of the portion you’re adding everytime—if you add too much to it, it will be difficult to chew. Both of these dishes tasted great. While the Theypesamgyeoppsal had thin slices of pork that cook very fast, the Moksal consists of thick fatty meat pieces that are very juicy.
The good thing about the restaurant was that all the staff members were very polite and responded quickly. Apparently, most of them are also fluent in Korean and very familiar with the culture which helps them prepare and serve the food in a manner that makes the whole experience a pleasant one.
Overall, I would say Won Korean is a great place if you want to have good Korean food. Most of their dishes are a little on the expensive side but because they import majority of the ingredients from Korea, serve big portions, offer a variety of side dishes with every order and ensure that the quality of the food they serve is great, the price feels worth it. I would, however, suggest you go there on an empty stomach and with a big group of friends because Korean food in its essence is meant to be enjoyed in groups.
Won Korean Restaurant
Inside Hotel Ngudrup, Boudha Opening hours: 10:00 am to 10:00 pm Contact: 01-4916317 Additional charges: 13% VAT Parking: Available Delivery: Not available