Korean restaurants have always been popular in Hong Kong as a place to go with a big group of friends to enjoy a casual feast. More often than not, however, this involves a DIY Korean barbecue that you will inevitably walk away from wishing you hadn’t worn your favourite white top and stinking of food. This is far from the case at new ‘Modern Korean’ restaurant Sanche.
Tucked away just past the wet markets on Gage Street, Sanche is a cosy yet comfortable little space with whitewashed brick walls, wood accents and traditional Korean calligraphy juxtaposed against modern dark wooden furniture.
The name Sanche refers to naturally grown vegetables from the mountains of Korea. The restaurant therefore uses fresh ingredients from local suppliers and sources its traditional Korean sauce – Jang – directly from an artisan producer in Korea; without this sauce, apparently the food, prepared by Korean head chef Edwin Lee, would not taste nearly quite as authentic.
Lee’s aim is to serve traditionally Korean dishes with a modern twist, or, as he puts it, presented “in a modern tapas style.” I wouldn’t necessarily say the dishes are ‘tapas’, as they are mostly full-sized portions, but they are designed for sharing. Isn’t that the case with Korean food in general?
After enjoying a delicious ‘Green Joy’ cocktail (rum, kaffir lime and honeydew) whilst we waited for our table, we began our feast with the beef salad. Here, beautifully tender slices of bulgogi beef were served with fresh, crunchy salad leaves. From the first bite, we were in bulgogi heaven.
This was a tough dish to follow, but the pork belly BBQ succeeded in keeping us content. The tender pieces of pork, which were fatty but enjoyably so, were served with a sweet-spicy bean sauce and lettuce leaves, ready to make our own little lettuce wraps. I loved the combination of textures and how fresh and healthy this dish was.
The chicken kanjung came personally recommended by our waiter. Sadly this was a dish I had to miss out on, given my decision to give up wheat for Lent, although I did try to remove the amazingly crispy outer layer and eat just the chicken. The little bit I did taste had an interesting cinnamon flavour to it that, had I been able to enjoy it in its full form, would have by far outshone other versions of Korean fried chicken that I have tried.
Similar to the pork belly dish, the BBQ beef short ribs were also served with the same sweet-spicy sauce and lettuce leaves. The beef was lovely and tender with the same delicious bulgogi marinade, but obviously the awkward little bones got in the way of true enjoyment and made it impossible to eat as a lettuce wrap.
Other than the beef salad, perhaps my favourite dish of the night was the grilled melo served in spicy sauce. This white fish had the perfect flaky texture and a beautiful flavour that paired well with the whole roasted garlic cloves. Beware of the green chillies, however, as they’re punchier than they look.
Unfortunately, unlike in other Korean restaurants, banchan (little complimentary side dishes) are not included, so you have to pay $25 for a side of kimchi. Nonetheless it is good kimchi and I suppose the portion is a little larger than it would be if it were free.
Another disappointment is that Sanche currently does not serve any dessert. Although I was comfortably full, I am always disposed to push that limit just a little further in order to have something sweet to finish the meal; alas, I went to bed still craving that little something sweet.
Service, on the most part, was excellent, so much so that we insisted on offering our friendly waiter (who could also be the manager) the last glass of our bottle of Soju to toast with us. The bill, which didn’t include the round of cocktails we had at the start (said friendly waiter treated us whilst we waited for our table), came to just over $1000 for four of us. Despite the lack of dessert, $250 per person for a yummy Korean meal that we didn’t have to cook ourselves and didn’t result in us reeking of barbecue isn’t half bad.
Shop C, 32 Gage Street
Tel: +852 2628 3248