The food at Han Gook Gwan is great – if you can get past the lingering smell of boiled meat and cabbage that haunts its halls. We’re not sure if this was just an occasional odor or a resident one, but it was enough to make us consider leaving.
After thinking about it a bit, we decided to stay - your nose soon gets accustomed - and we were glad that we did. The meal turned out to be really quite good - and a lot of fun.
Many of Han Gook Gwan’s dishes are interactive; the bibimbap and Korean bacon that we ordered both required active involvement before eating. Bibimbap is a signature Korean dish that consists of white rice, julienned vegetables, beef and raw egg - all juxtaposed in a hot stone bowl for you to mix up (don’t worry, the raw egg cooks against the hot sides of the bowl). It’s basically a Korean fried rice, but more fun than ordinary fried rice cause you get to stir it all up yourself – and add the sauces that you like. Just make sure you don’t touch the bowl, it’s really really really hot.
The bacon is served raw, and you cook it yourself using the hotplate-like device that’s on the table. It comes with garlic that can also be cooked, and a large variety of sides: kimchi, cucumbers, a sesame seed salad, potato cakes, peanuts and lettuce.
At the beginning we didn’t really know what to do we with our food or how to eat it – but this is what makes Han Gook Gwan such a fun dining experience, there’s so much interaction with your meal. It would be a great place for a date - the hot plate contraption and all the cooking will give you lots to do together and lots to talk about.
Han Gook Gwan’s been around since the late 1980s, and it’s currently the only Korean restaurant left in the country. It isn’t a fancy place – there’s little to no décor, and it’s more of a Korean hangout than a restaurant catering to Sri Lankan customers. But the food is good and both tasty and enjoyable to eat. Overall, it’s affordable. The bibimbap (this is called steamed rice with vegetables and sauce on the menu) is Rs. 750 and the bacon (called three ply pork on the menu) is Rs. 900. With service the bill came to Rs. 2033 for two people. Not bad.
As for the smell, well, I guess that’s just the scent of a restaurant that serves boiled meat and cabbage, what to do. We’d recommend you just power through those first 5 minutes. It’s worth it.
Don't let the weird smell at the door deter you, it tends to ease up after a while so you won't really notice it.