The Korean restaurant presence in the greater Delhi region has been building for a while. I’m sure the craze for Korean dramas and K-Pop has a lot to do with its growing popularity but it’s also true that there’s a decent Korean population in parts of the capital now, what with a number of large Korean corporations having big offices there. On past trips we’d been curious about trying some of these restaurants, but somehow never got around to it. This January we finally did. A good friend wanted to take us out to dinner and she suggested a Korean place she really likes, out of interest to see what the missus (who is Korean) would make of it. This was the Gurgaon branch of a restaurant named Gung: The Palace. They also have branches in Delhi, Noida and Neemrana. We were not expecting very much and our expectations were handily surpassed. Here are the details.
The Gurgaon location of Gung (“The Palace” is just the English translation of Gung) is in Sector 29, in a complex that houses a large number of “happening” bars and pubs and restaurants, and which was an utter hellhole even on a Wednesday evening. There was ear-splitting music spilling into the parking lot out of seemingly every bar: complete cacophony. I can only imagine what it’s like on the weekends. Thankfully, once you find Gung and go upstairs and inside, the noise disappears. It’s a large restaurant with the seating seemingly all in private cabins off a central hallway/foyer. The seating is traditional: you sit on the floor and your feet dangle below the table—you might want to do some stretching before going.
The menu is expansive (and well translated with everything clearly photographed for the benefit of those less familiar with Korean cuisine). A very wide range of Korean dishes is available on it; far more, for example, than in Korean restaurants in the Twin Cities—American cities with larger Korean populations than ours are, of course, a different proposition. Given the private nature of the dining experience it was not possible to see what the profile of the rest of the diners was on the night we were there. I can tell you that with the exception of the young owner—who dropped by our cabin to chat—there seemed to be no Koreans working there. We’d found this out via some comedy on arrival as the missus spoke in Korean to the young female staff clad in hanboks. They all smiled politely but made no response. We then established that they’re all actually from the Northeastern states of India!
The owner, as I say, stopped by to chat and he made some recommendations from the menu. He very disarmingly said we shouldn’t expect the food to be as good as that in Korean restaurants in L.A or New York, leave alone Korea but that it was generally made with concessions to non-Korean palates. Most of the key ingredients, including meats, he said were imported directly from Korea. We followed his suggestions and got orders of the following: galbi, pork belly and haemul (seafood) jongol. With the banchan selection and rice, this was plenty of food for our party of four adults.
And how was everything? The galbi was rather good and the pork was pretty good too. (The staff cooks the meats for you on the tabletop burner.) The jongol was filled with a large variety of seafood but I would say it was decent and no more. The banchan selection was not very inspiring but the kimchi was good (which is always a dangerous issue when dining with the missus). Soju rounded out our order. The owner very kindly also brought over some makkoli or rice beer at the end of the meal.
For a look at the restaurant, the menu and what we ate, click on an image below to launch a larger slideshow. Scroll down for thoughts on service and price and to see what’s coming next on the restaurant report front.
Service was attentive and good. Now, of course, we had a Korean in our group and didn’t need anything explained or described for us, or need tips on how to eat the grilled meats (dipped in the condiments, with the seasoned greens, wrapped in lettuce etc.). I’m not sure how well that experience would go if the non-Korean staff were called on to perform that function. As for price, our friend did not let us touch the bill. But you can work out the likely cost of a meal there from the menu. It’s not a cheap restaurant by Delhi standards but certainly plausible for what it is.
As for the food itself, it was quite a lot better than we thought it would be. It’s not that we were expecting something bad and this was passable. It was pretty good. Yes, nowhere as good as in Koreatown in L.A or in New York but certainly on par with the better places in the Twin Cities (which generally have smaller menus). I think the odds are good that after this experience we will explore the Korean scene in Delhi/Gurgaon a little more on future trips.
Alright, this is the last of my Delhi reports from this trip but it’s far from the last of my Korean reports: I have quite a few to come from my trip to Seoul in March. It’s also far from the last of my India trip reports, as I have a bunch of Goa reports to go as well. You can expect the Seoul and Goa reports to show up on Thursdays and the weekends for the next month or so. On Tuesdays I’ll have my usual Twin Cities dining reports. This Tuesday’s will be of dinner at Tenant a couple of weeks ago.