Han Gook Gwan is one of two main Korean restaurants in Colombo (the other being Kyong Bok Kung
). They do a great take on Korean cuisine at an affordable price. It's not for everyone, but if you like the DIY style of food, this is one place you have to visit.
Korean food is somewhat rare in Sri Lanka. It's different from any other type of cuisine since it involves some assembly and self cooking. For those who are unfamiliar it can be a bit confusing, but once you get the hang of it, it's fun.
Prices generally range between Rs. 700 - Rs. 1400 for most dishes, but if you go with 3-4 people you'll find yourself spending only around Rs. 1000 per head which is pretty great value for money. They don't have small/large portion sizes but we think it's enough for at least 3 people. They also offer certain meats like ox (tail, intestine, tongue, you name it) which is obviously not for everyone, but it's still great to have the option.
We ordered the three-ply pork (Rs. 900) to get us started. This is one of those signature DIY dishes. What you get is 10 strips of belly bacon served with six side dishes, which includes - lettuce, honey peanuts, two types of kimchi radish, kimchi cabbage and a leek salad. So the basic idea is to cook the bacon on the circular barbeque on your table and then assemble a wrap with a bit of all the sides. It's actually quite simple to assemble and very interesting to eat since all the sides add so many different flavors and textures. Oh and if you do manage to finish the sides, they'll refill it for free.
Their Kimchi fried rice (Rs. 700) was also different from the stuff you regularly get at most Chinese restaurants, with the kimchi adding a distinct sourness and spice which was gladly not overpowering. The fried rice also had a good amount of pork in it as well, so needless to say this is a pretty good spot for those of you looking for pork dishes.
We also ordered their Ox tail stew (Rs. 950) which was actually a great addition to kimchi fried rice. It was braised perfectly to the point where the meat fell off the bone, with the stew having a nice, somewhat thick consistency. For those of you who haven't had Ox meat before it tastes more or less like beef, if a bit tougher, hence the reason it's generally cooked over time. All in all we were really happy with the meal, with all of it coming to Rs. 3200.
Service & Ambience
The service was quite fast with first dish coming to the table in less than 10 minutes. The other two arrived just in time as we were finishing the first. The staff was friendly, attentive and will tell you anything you need to know about the dishes. If you're unsure about how to cook/eat something, just ask and they'll help you out, or you can just copy the Koreans.
The first thing you'll notice when you walk in is the weird smell of boiled meat, which can be very unsettling, but once you hang around for a bit you'll get accustomed to it. Besides that, the ambience at Han Gook Gwan is pretty simple. They've got single burner cookers on each table, which is there to place the barbeque on, and a TV permanently on Korean news channels which adds to the authentic feel. Another thing worth noting is that we were the only Sri Lankans at the restaurant during the time we were there. Kinda nice to be the minority for a change.
Han Gook Gwan does an authentic take on Korean cuisine at a price that will keep you going back for more. If you're looking for a change from the usual Chinese eateries, give these guys a try. You'll most likely be walking away with a new found love for Korean cuisine.
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.