Nestled between countless other restaurants in Kebayoran Baru, Born Ga is a popular Korean restaurant franchise housed in a simple black building on Jl. Wolter Monginsidi. After a warm welcome by the owner of this Korean franchise as he held the front door open, the party was quickly escorted to a pre-booked table.
The soft music that played in the background complimented the dimmed lights, bricked walls and high ceilings that created a homey, cozy ambience. The exhaust pipes positioned above each grill were distinctive of a typical Korean BBQ restaurant.
We were immediately served a cold glass of authentic Korean corn tea, or “oksusu cha,” a special tea with a mild roasted scent. Our server attended to us in a timely fashion, reciting the specialties when we requested for them. Orders were taken in a succinct manner.
Several waitresses approached our table shortly, bringing the oh-so familiar small bowls of appetizers. Born Ga’s specials were a bowl of vegetables tossed in a special Korean sauce and a salad of sliced greens in sesame oil. The appetizers, “kimchi,” were crisp and nicely chilled. The vegetables, served on a plate as long as the width of the table, came in very generous helpings, and looked vibrant and un-wilted.
The first entrée that was served was the “japchae,” essentially rice noodles tossed with vegetables and sesame oil, among other sauces. The dish was divided into seven; one for each person, as requested. It’s easy to go wrong with “japchae.” You could toss it in too much oil and seasoning, drowning out the taste and textures of the ingredients and giving an overwhelmingly greasy feel to the entire dish, or have too little seasoning, and leave it tasting bland. Yet Born Ga struck a delightful balance in their rendition of the “japchae.”
Next came their signature dish, “woosamgyeop,” a thinly sliced beef brisket to be eaten with a soy-based dipping sauce. It was soft and seasoned, but didn’t leave that big of an impression at all. Fortunately, the dipping sauce that added a fruity, spicy and slightly sour kick to this otherwise nondescript grilled-beef dish rescued the “woosamgyeop barbecue”
We were also served a soup, “soontofu chigger,” a spicy soup with tofu, chicken and clam. The soup itself lacked character – it was quite thin and would have benefited from a stronger taste and a thicker consistency. The textures of the chicken and clam were also overpowered by the tofu.
The next entrée was the “yangnyeom gable,” a prime cut beef rib, marinated in a special house sauce. Some slices were grilled to perfection, while other slices were slightly chewy. Overall, they had a very succulent texture and was quite flavorful, especially when complemented by the special dipping sauce from the “woosamgyeop” and the soy bean paste, or as Indonesians have come to know it, “tauco.”
Unable to taste their other desserts, the complimentary ice omija tea and pretty standard selection of cut fruits had to suffice. The tea was made of the fruit of magnolia vines, mixed with honey and watermelon juice. In theory, you could taste five different flavors in one sip. There was a strong sour taste and a smell reminiscent of Chinese medicinal herbs. The aftertaste was refreshing, which was quite appreciated following a meat-dominated meal. There were also a variety of Korean ice creams in a small refrigerator on the first floor.
The service was rather inconsistent – great at times and sub-par at others. The dishes were not before the dessert, even though we had already requested for it, and the small tea jug was not refilled nearly often enough. Waving down the servers required considerable effort, but this could have been due to the cornered positioning of our table. Then again, the food was served very quickly and our requests were fulfilled without delay, which really did make up for most of the service-related problems.
Overall, the experience at Born Ga was a pleasant one. The service was quick for the most part, and the food was generally impressive. The complimentary dessert was also a nice, fresh finish to the meal, and the homey décor of the restaurant made us feel at home and at ease. I would certainly give this restaurant a second visit, especially for their “japchae” and “omija cha.”
Open daily from 11.30 a.m. to 10.30 p.m
Jl. Wolter Monginsidi No.24, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta
Tel. 021 7396229, 7233024