As I mentioned in the last review of Kwonsooksoo (https://kenscale.com/2018/04/24/kwonsooksoo/), my wife Jun and I had a lot of hardship during our short trip to Seoul before the start of my new job, one of which was stomach virus at different occasions for both of us. I got sick after our one-year anniversary dinner at Kwonsooksoo (although if you read my reviews, you can see that I have mostly positive things to say about the restaurant). A couple of days later, Jun got sick after a meal at another restaurant where we got together with a couple of friends. Lately, Seoul has been booming with high-end omakase-style Korean BBQ restaurants serving multiple courses of Korean beef (“hanwoo”) meat (oftentimes with wine and other drink pairings as an option). One of the newcomers that has generated quite a bit of attention (and therefore I had been looking to visit on this Seoul trip) is Woorahman on a quiet hill in Hannam-dong area. The restaurant only serves guests in private rooms where one designated chef comes in to personally cook all the meats in front of you. For approximately $150 per person, I was told that it is actually not an exorbitant price. Woorahman also offers a whiskey pairing option (serving three whiskey glasses, but more on that later) at $30 per person so most of us (including Jun and myself) went for that as well. Just like at Kwonsooksoo, it is a shame that Jun got sick (again, I would like to attribute her sub-optimal condition to various other factors such as the air pollution, unusually cold weather, a bad jet lag, etc.) because otherwise I thought the experience at Woorahman was exception despite the complaints of one of our friends on the party (more than that later too).
Unfortunately, Woorahman doesn’t have a written menu, one thing I thought the restaurant should definitely consider putting together to aid the diners for them to understand what they are eating, especially because some of the savory dishes that came before the meat fest were surprisingly memorable. For instance, I was very impressed with the sirloin dumpling with cucumber sauce that displayed a lot of complex flavor for wonderful bites to start off the meal. Another winner was the octopus dish with mustard sauce and paprika that showed a very nice balance in texture. I have had dozens of beef tartare dishes in other places, but the one made with beef tenderloin offered at Woorahman certainly belonged in the upper echelon with its pleasantly chewy texture. After these delightful appetizers finally came the first part of the beef course, with the sirloin and tenderloin parts that were more or less perfectly cooked medium rare with barely any seasoning so we could all savor the juicy texture of the meats. The chef even served one piece to each of us with a little surprise topping, a piece of mullet roe that has become increasingly popular these days.
The second part of the dinner started promptly we were done with the sirloins and tenderloins. The restaurant thoughtfully sent out a barley risotto dish with pollack broth and cod inside to cleanse our palate, and it turned out to be a perfect antidote to neutralize the meaty sensation in my mouth. For part two of the meats, the server brought out less often used parts that are often associated with skirt and flap steaks. The textures of the meats were a little bit more unique compared to the predictability tender sirloins and tenderloins that came before but they were just as delicious. Following the last savory course (each of us had an option to choose between a cold pasta and soy bean paste stew (doenjang jjigae)) and a refreshing ice cream dessert, we were more than full. The next morning, Jun complained of a very bad stomach virus, and honestly I couldn’t tell what she ate at Woorahman that could’ve made her sick. Again, I think the meal at the restaurant wasn’t a culprit but it certainly gave me a pause before I decided to write this review.
While Woorahman’s food was quite outstanding, there were a couple of things I thought could’ve been improved. First of all, I was expecting to have rare whiskey selections to pair with the meal, but all of the three glasses that we had, from Maker’s Mark to the cheapest version of Lagavulin, were all too predictable. Second, and this came from one of our friends who joined us, the service could vastly improve. If there is no written menu, at least it would’ve been nice to get some detailed explanations from the chef himself for us to understand what we are eating, and all he did was mostly grill and serve us the meats. Apparently, according to our friend, the chef promised to bring smoked version of meats in the second part of the meat course but didn’t keep the promise. Despite these non-food related flaws and Jun’s sickness, I still want to give a very high score to Woorahman for its inventive menu (especially on non-meat savory dishes that I could match the quality of any fine dining restaurant in New York City). The high-end beef omakase model is not yet something that has been brought to the Big Apple (no, Cote that has been universally praised by critics doesn’t count (https://kenscale.com/2017/09/12/cote/)), and I hope one day that a visionary who has perfected this model can replicate it successfully here as well.
KenScale: 8.75/10 (Jun’s Score: 8.5/10)
- Creativity: 9.0/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 9.0/10
- Texture: 9.0/10
- Value: 8.0/10
Address: Sowol-ro 38 gil, Yongsangu, Seoul, Korea
Telephone: +82 2-797-8399