I’m not a restaurant critic by trade or by will. I write about the experiences that I’ve enjoyed, about the things that made me smile from the pit of my full belly. It’s as simple as that. Or at least I thought it was…
I’ve been interacting with restauranteurs for various reasons and was invited to try out a new place called Galbi that has recently opened at the 210 Long Street complex. I accepted to go because let’s be serious, the thought of a Korean-styled barbecue intrigued me.
Upon entry from Bloem Street, the fairy lights had me thinking romantically. Yes, the alley was dark. Yes, there were signs that the 26’ers had been there but the fairy lights made it all okay. The chef Coenraad and his maitre de, Louis, are personable and friendly. They’re a young team and this is their first restaurant. Their excitement is palpable.
For a restaurant that is positioning themselves as a Korean-style dining experience there weren’t too many indications that it was, in fact, oriental in nature. The decor, music and of course the food, were all very Western, except for the illusive promise of miso-flavoured fish…
To start the experience, the coals were brought in. It did feel as though I was at a braai but let’s be serious, who would really mind that. The first course of halloumi cheese and rosa tomato skewers, tofu and mushrooms were set on the grill. That was followed by the vegetable skewers with much the same combo from the previous course and everything seemed to be bound by this lemon drizzle.
Then the meat arrived. Four minute-steak portions of beef rump were placed in front of me with an array of salt and pepper, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and an orange sauce of sorts – not a wholly inspired display. I braaied my steak and tried not to dollop blobs of the jalepeno yoghurt dip that had been ushered through with the sweet potato fries on top of each mouthful.
The evening unfolded much like the way I’ve just described – a tad bland. As I sat there, full from a heavy meal, with plates, bowls and teaspoons for as far as the eye could see, I felt defeated. And not in the best kind of way. The hospitality and great experiential component of Galbi didn’t translate into noteworthy food, unfortunately.
The final course was a white chocolate quesadilla, which I was quite looking forward to. I’d been craving the wiles of white chocolate all day and had actually bought myself some Raffaelo on the way home. This needed to be braaied as well, to melt the chocolate and create that happy marriage between the sugar and cinnamon. Problem was that the quesadilla was flaccid, the chocolate tasted synthetic, much like the banana and strawberry coulis served with it.
In general, Galbi is not a place to go to if you like fresh produce. While the veggies and meat are of a good standards, the beef was not free range. The condiments were not made from scratch but merely poured into pyrex dishes and unfortunately, I feel as though too many corners have been cut, which ultimately affects the dining experience. The concept is fun and while I had a great time BBQing my food with my friend, I didn’t leave feeling all together satisfied with my meal.