Sunday, January 17, 2016

Kiwa Korean Grill Dining at Solaire

Last January 14, I was invited to a blogger lunch at Kiwa Korean Grill, which can be found in Solaire Resort & Casino. Kiwa is a fine dining Korean barbecue restaurant, the only one in South East Asia. The grand launch is scheduled on January 28, 2016 but the restaurant has been operating quietly since December 24, 2015.

Kiwa is actually owned by Dr. David Shim, the CEO of Solaire Korea, and his associates. So Kiwa is under the supervision of Solaire Korea. The owners realized that there is a void that needed to be filled since the Korean population in Manila has been rapidly increasing. There is also a large number of Korean visitors in Solaire, plus many Filipinos (myself included) love eating Korean food. Despite the K-Pop fever, there is surprisingly no other Korean fine dining barbecue set-up in the country.

The minute I walked in, I immediately remembered my trip to Seoul more than a year ago, especially when we visited Bukchon Hanok Village. Hubby and I had Korean BBQ there too but nothing quite this fancy. According to COO Eddie Park, the interiors were done by a Korean firm. “We wanted something traditional yet modern and chic, something sophisticated but still cozy, something that would make our guests feel welcome,” he described.

The look they wanted was achieved by utilizing a lot of wood assembled in different patterns and combined with stones. The place is so gorgeous in person, you really feel like you're transported to Korea!

The restaurant can accommodate a total of 184 persons. It also has eight private rooms which are expandable and can seat 8 to 48, like the one seen below.

love all the different patterns and textures throughout the restaurant

"Kiwa" actually means traditional Korean roof tile, the ones used for Korean homes. And each corner of the restaurant is definitely Instagram-worthy, even the ceiling!

I love how they've tried to bring the outdoors in with these trees. Apparently, everything you see here is pretty much all from Korea - the chairs and tables, even the stones. Talk about an authentic experience!

a much coveted row of booths affords a stunning view of the Manila Bay

But of course, the star of the show is the food. Kiwa aims to provide the best of everything starting with the ingredients. Everything is fresh and they are using grade A+ beef, the best that is available. Unfortunately, Korean beef cannot be exported so what they serve is from Japan (Wagyu) and USDA. Their service standard is a lot higher than other restaurants too, since they follow strict 5-star hotel sanitation rules and regulations. Everything has to be sealed, covered, labelled and stored in the right temperature. Their kitchen is also top-notch, all imported from Korea.

I'm sure if you've eaten in other Korean barbecue restaurants, you've encountered those hanging pull-down exhaust fans above each table. At Kiwa, all the tables have grills, but no exhaust fans (well, can you imagine how different the interiors would look like if they did?!). That's because they have a state-of-the-art exhaust system under the restaurant so all the smoke is ventilated under the floor. Amazing right? It's the best technology in Korea, so when you dine at Kiwa you will not smell like smoke and barbecue (which I can attest to).

Kiwa's menu is a collaboration of their Korean chefs, headed by chef Gi Won Park. They are most proud of their specialties, the Yangnyeomgalbi (beef ribs seasoned with special sweet soy sauce) and Sogalbiijim (beef short ribs cooked in a soy sauce seasoning with ginseng and assorted vegetables). Other best sellers so far are the Chadolbaegi Salad (pan-fried beef brisket salad) and Galbitang Bansang (Korean traditional beef short ribs soup with beef, radish, onions and assorted vegetables). From the appetizer list, the Tomato-Yangsangchu Salad (seasoned seafood in a whole tomato salad) is fast becoming a favorite.

our menu during the event
Baebaek Kimchi
Rolled white kimchi  inside a Korean pear with seasoned water
Tomato-Yangsangchu Salad
Seasoned seafood in a whole tomato salad
Pumpkin Salad
Mashed pumpkin mixed with assorted nuts with assorted seasonal vegetable with sesame seed dressing
Seasoned soy sauce based pan fried glass noodles with beef and fried assorted vegetables
Haemul Pajeon
Pancake mixed with seafood, spring onion and assorted vegetable with spicy soy sauce with sesame oil on the side
Platter of scallop sashimi. steamed shrimp. salmon sashimi, steamed octopus and marinated tomato

Can you believe those were just the appetizers? Everything looked so pretty right? I have to say my favorite was probably the pumpkin salad. The taste was just amazing.

Now for the main course. We had Grilled Samgyeopsal or seasoned pork belly first. Here, the servers did the grilling for the guests, unlike in other restaurants. Their CEO Ed Reyes shares that the training process took awhile because the staff had to learn a different culture, a different way of doing things. Kiwa brought in a team from Korea to train their Filipino staff and they also have mainstays that are Korean.

Next was the Yang Nyeom Gal Bi or grilled marinated beef with Kiwa's special sauce. The meat was super tender and tasty.

more side dishes to go with the beef

In Korea, the rice, soup and noodles are served after the grilled meat because they believe that if you eat rice, you cannot truly taste the meat. But Filipinos demand their rice with the main course (like me!) so they sometimes have to change the service sequence to accommodate that.

For dessert, we were served Bingsu which is like a Korean halo-halo with shaved ice and red beans. There was also a cold, sweet tea which was so flavorful and refreshing.

A full course menu at Kiwa is around P3,000. Lunch sets start at P1,500 and rice sets go from P800 up. As you can see, serving sizes are very generous. Just the appetizers alone can be very filling.

By their grand opening on January 28, Kiwa promises to have more on their menu.  Lined up are special items such as lobster tail and Japanese wagyu. At the same time, there are plans to add lunch sets that are in the P500-P700 range. Those who enjoy drinks can look forward to dishes that are perfect for soju and other rice wines.

Since Kiwa is open as early as 9am, they will be releasing six varieties of breakfast sets, each to include a soup, rice and three to four side dishes, which is what Koreans typically eat in the morning. “We have a birthday breakfast tray with seaweed soup, it’s what we drink on our birthday. It is believed to help improve blood circulation. In Korean tradition, seaweed soup is the first thing given to a woman who has just given birth. If you go to Kiwa on your birthday, instead of a birthday cake, we will give you complimentary seaweed soup upon presentation of a valid ID,” announced Park.

Anyway, I really had a wonderful time where I got to eat delicious food in a beautiful setting, with the company of some awesome ladies. Thank you to Kiwa for a great experience and I can't wait to be back. :)

too bad this photo is blurry, but you can still make out our faces lol ;p

Kiwa Korean Grill Dining
Operating Hours: 9am to 12mn - Sunday to Thursday, 9am to 2am - Friday and Saturday
Address: Solaire Resort & Casino, 1 Aseana Avenue, Paranaque City
Phone number: +632 888 8888
Facebook: Kiwa Korean Grill
Twitter: @kiwakoreangrill
Instagram: Kiwa Korean Grill

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