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Time for some Korean food - Ran [Restaurant Review]

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Reviewed by The Wild Boar

In such a cosmopolitan city as London, it may be a bit shallow minded of me to say this, but there are a surprising number of Korean restaurants. Even my Korean ex-flatmate (and good friend) was mildly stunned by the sheer variety of good Korean food to be had, considering there aren’t really that many Koreans around. Both he and I have gone to Ran several times now, something I’m quite happy to do as he had given Ran a Seal of Authentic Korean Food.

Ran Korean Restaurant London 01

I’ve been a fairly regular customer to Ran over the past six years or so now but we have been distracted by other restaurants lately. It underwent refurbishment sometime this (or last) year so in the spirit of accurate investigative journalism, we were duly obliged to try out the “new” Ran to make sure the food was still up the scratch for this review.

From what I remember before, Ran used to be a buzzing place filled with the smell of sizzling barbecued meats and chatter of happy people. After the refurbishment, the number of seats has decreased so the atmosphere is a bit muted compared to before.

Ran Korean Restaurant London 02

The girls in the group were absolutely delighted with the addition of the new suction vents though. It used to be an unfortunate consequence of Korean BBQs that you went home with your jacket smelling of grilled meat, even though they *did* have vents by the side of the grill which had the suction equivalent of a mosquito with a stuffy nose. However, the vents themselves falling from the ceiling like alien probes are a bit of an eyesore.

Ran Korean Restaurant London 03

For drinks, the PigPig had one each of a cinnamon based drink (Soojunggwa) and another rice punch (Shikhye). Both were really refreshing to drink on a hot day, but obviously can’t hold a candle to my Hite beer which was very light, similar to Asahi.

Ran Korean Restaurant London 04
From left: Hite beer, cinnamon drink, rice punch

We ordered an assortment of kimchi as an appetizer. As I understand it, kimchi is a term for a variety of pickled vegetables which vary depending on the season, and is one of the most famous Korean food items to the rest of the world. Virtually all Korean restaurants will have some kimchi to serve, and the average Korean meal will include kimchi. The most common type is a spicy Chinese cabbage. Others include a spicy daikon (Japanese radish), spicy cucumbers and spinach. You may have noticed that three out of the four types we had today were spicy, this is a recurring theme as Koreans love spiciness.

Ran Korean Restaurant London 05

The Korean seafood pancake came soon after. Hot from the stove (or griddle?), the base of the pancake was nice and crunchy but the rest was still light. The dough goes very well with the accompanying sauce which wasn’t too salty. However, there wasn’t much seafood on offer, and I prefer the kimchi pancake as its tastier.

Ran Korean Restaurant London 09

The ribbon beef sashimi might not appeal to all, but I would strongly urge you to try it. One of my favourite dishes in the restaurant, it is raw thin marinated slices of beef (usually frozen so there may still be a little bit of iciness in the meat), mixed with very sweet julienned pears and a raw egg yolk. Absolutely delicious.

Ran Korean Restaurant London 10

Ran Korean Restaurant London 08

Another must order starter - beef with glass noodles is very tasty despite having quite small amounts of beef (this is a recurring theme).

Ran Korean Restaurant London 06

My flatmate also particularly loves the stir fried kimchi with thin strips of pork. Looking like quite a simple dish, this dish is just screaming for a bowl of white rice to be eaten with.

Ran Korean Restaurant London 17

Now that we were done with the starters, onwards to the meat course - Korean grill!

Ran Korean Restaurant London 14

We chose a variety of different meats to grill. First to arrive was the beef sirloin and shoulder of beef. Just plain old beef, with no salt or pepper added to it, arranged neatly onto the grill by the waitress. Although some sauce is provided in the way of mildly seasoned soya sauce and salted sesame seed oil, it’s much more satisfying to wrap the meat into a little parcel of fresh lettuce with some bean paste on the meat (not on the lettuce as we were advised by the waitress). The sirloin and shoulder of beef were quite good to start with as it’s a plain type of meat to eat.

Ran Korean Restaurant London 15

Ran Korean Restaurant London 16

Ran Korean Restaurant London 18

Ran Korean Restaurant London 11

Ran Korean Restaurant London 25

Soon after that came the beef short ribs, which were marinated in garlic, sesame oil and pear juice to give it much more taste. However, I felt the meat was a little bit tougher, possibly due to the fibres in the ribs.

The bulgogi is another famous item on Korean menus, essentially beef tenderloin marinated in sesame oil, soy sauce, spring onion, ginger and molasses. To me, it tasted almost the same as the short ribs, and as they were cooked side by side I could only tell them apart as the meat was more tender.

Ran Korean Restaurant London 21

With the beef done, we moved onto the pork section starting with the sliced pork belly. Served and grilled au naturale as the beef sirloin, this incredibly fatty cut of meat was delicious to eat with the sauces provided although extra care has to be taken so it doesn’t get overcooked.

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Ran Korean Restaurant London 22

Last of the grilled meats was spicy pork and chicken bulgogi. They both had the same marinades applied and the only difference was the meats used. I prefer eating pork so I do think ordering the spicy chicken was a bit irrelevant but all for variety’s sake I guess. The spicy marinade was just salty enough, and not really spicy at all.

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Ran Korean Restaurant London 24

Unfortunately, the Suckling Pig was doing the ordering, so I wasn’t aware we weren’t having tongue until it was too late. I would recommend it to others if you’re making a trip, but again just be careful not to let it overcook or the texture of the meat will be wasted.

To round off the meal was some
dolsot bibimbap. To simplify, its rice in a stone bowl, topped with some beef strips and various vegetables. The waitress will ask how spicy you desire it to be, take my advice and just ask for extra spicy as it doesn’t even get as spicy as a KFC Hot Wing but the extra sauce will add more flavour to the rice. You could theoretically have the bibimbap without it coming in the stone bowl, but the hot stone continues cooking the rice giving it an extra layer of crunchiness. Oh and it comes with soup as well, which has tofu in it and is very similar to the Japanese miso soup.

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Ran Korean Restaurant London 28

As we asked for the bill (came up to a flat £30 per person), the waiters quickly cleared away our table and provided us with a slice of watermelon each. On a hot day, and after a salty spicy meal, the juicy and sweet watermelon was a joy to eat.

Food - 6.5
Service - 5.0
Atmosphere - 6.0
Value - 5.0

In general, the quality of the food has remained much the same since the first meal I had there. To me, the food was well seasoned and very tasty and I’m quite pleased that my Korean friend had also vouched that this restaurant is one of the best Korean places in London serving authentic Korean food (and not some bastardized half Korean half Chinese half Japanese and teeny weeny bit of Thai cuisine). I do feel that the refurbishment has made it look more “posh” and reserved which seemed a bit daft as most of the clientele were young folk eager to have a meal and laugh with friends. Ran also feels a bit stingy with the portion sizes.

Would I eat here again? Sure, tomorrow? Just let me call my friends to meet up.

58-59 Great Marlborough Street
London, W1F 7JY
Tel: +44(0)20 7434 1650
Official website

Ran on Urbanspoon

Food Industry Trends

31 oink oinks...:

Lizzie said...

I ate here after it's refurbishment and wasn't too impressed. The staff were super moody, and it was all a bit of a rip off; they charged us £2 when we wanted more lettuce!

Dhanggit said...

this post make me crave for korean dishes!! delicious photos!

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

I love the way that place looks and their food seems fantastic!



Angie's Recipes said...

I wonder how much do you spend monthly on dining out......

Angie's Recipes

veron said...

I wish someone would open a restaurant like this here. I love Korean food!

homeladychef said...

I love Korean food! Simply delicious!! the only thing that put me off is.... raw beef with egg, that's still out of my radar :p it's in my list of you-can-have-it-all-by-yourself kind of food. hehe....

Nicely reviewed. Enjoy reading it!

lisaiscooking said...

Sounds fantastic! I've been trying to learn more about Korean food, so I need to spend more time in Korean restaurants.

5 Star Foodie said...

The grilled meats look wonderful! I would also love to try ribbon beef sashimi!

KennyT said...

I'm with you, I prefer kimchi pancakes to seafood pancakes^^. I think the vents look pretty cool, eyesore for you? The silver part looks a bit like shisha to me, haha.

Pam said...

I think it's so cool that you cook at the table. I really need to try a Korean restaurant.

Natashya said...

So interesting! I don't know too much about Korean food, but I love the table grill!

Cucinista said...

Thanks for the tip! I have been on the lookout for a good Korean place. Maybe this weekend...

Gera @ SweetsFoods said...

I’m craving this Koran dishes right now Yum!! Grrr I’m far to dinner…



noble pig said...

Hite beer? I want to try it.

burpandslurp said...

I'm a weirdo. I hate Korean food, but always get so excited when other people enjoy it. Go figure.
By the way, look around to see if there are Chinese-Korean restaurants around. I love their noodle dishes.

Rabbittrick said...

wow, nice! the images look amazing...

I've never been a hardcore korean food fan, but only because I've always found korean cuisine a little monotonous.... there's the bugolgi (misspelled?), which you can have with any type of meat, and then it's MOSTLY meat. And kim chi.

My fav korean dishes are always the soup and kimchi, but I find myself maxed out when it comes to an entire meal of bbq-ed meat.

Perhaps I should try it once, since these pictures have almost swayed me!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I love Korean food and it is surprising that there's so much good Korean considering the Korean population in London!

Helen Yuet Ling Pang said...

Wow, you sure ate a lot. I used to go to Ran quite regularly before the refurb, but haven't been since. There is a large Korean population, although the word 'large' is rather subjective. Have you been to New Malden?

Lisa said...

First off, I have to say, I LOVE your blog. The posts are great reads, and your photography is incredible, and the title is great - love the 'oink oinks' in lieu of 'comments' :) Secondly, being a lover of cuisines from all over the world, Korean is definitely one of my favorites. I wish I could astral project myself to London right now, just to try out that restaurant!

Katherine Aucoin said...

the restuarant looks so ecclectic, I really like the atmosphere portrayed in your photos. the food looks fantastic.

Krissy @ The Food Addicts said...

Yum, Korean food is so good. There's this huge hype going on in LA right now.. called the Kogi Korean BBQ Taco Trucks. They combine Korean BBQ with mexican salsa and corn tortillas... it's like a huge phenomenon!

nora@ffr said...

delish photos :) i like some of the korean dishes. but the ones here sound amazing :)

Wild Boar said...

That's odd, I don't think I encountered grumpy staff at Ran before. Although to be fair, most of the time we go in big-ish groups of 8 and we spend all our time chatting among ourselves.

But yeah they're very calculative about stuff like that. My Korean friend said that kimchi is normally provided free in Korea, but that doesn't happen in London.

Dhanggit / Rosa's Yummy Yums:
Thanks :-)

Angie's Recipes:
Haha care to make a guess?

I suppose there needs to be a lot of local Koreans around before a Korean restaurant opens.

Aww that's a shame, it's probably the dish I most look forward to eating.

Yes I assume that Korean food isn't as well known to Westerners as other cuisine types. Thought people would appreciate this.

5 Star Foodie:
Grilled meat of any type rocks!

Well hopefully your friends also prefer kimchi pancakes, since mine tend to order seafood x_x

Ah man now I feel like having some shisha...

Pam / Natashya:
I think its more of a Far Eastern thing? I know some Japanese restaurants that also do something similar with pancakes where they cook at the table.

Hope you have a great meal out :-)

noble pig:
Nearly as good as Asahi, which is the nicest Asian beer I ever had.

Erm, you're Korean, hate Korean food, but love Korean-Chinese noodles dishes? o_O

When I eat just pure meat buffets, I do get a bit grossed out by the meat after a while. But such is my eating capacity that spending £30 at a Korean BBQ restaurant doesn't give me enough meat to gross out :-)

Why not do what I tend to do; have some kimchi, a couple of appetisers to share such as pancakes or glass noodles, some rice in the form of the bibimbap, and finally with some BBQ meat. That's pretty much what my friends and I order everytime.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella:
I know its quite surprising! Also the sheer number of Koreans flocking in via tour buses.

Helen Yuet Ling Pang:
Same I guess, this was my first visit since the refurbishment.

Umm I guess there is quite a significant group of Koreans around, but not as big as the Chinese I don't think.

I popped by New Malden once but didn't have time to eat anything there. My Korean friend said there wasn't much difference in quality between New Malden and Central London in general although its slightly cheaper outside.

Thanks :-)

Your Peanut Butter Cheesecake Swirl Brownies look fantastic!! I'm gonna try to get wifey to make some.

Krissy @ The Food Addicts:
It sounds.. really odd..!! Does it taste better than it sounds?

Marysol said...

I'm in awe of the photography, and the food.
I'm particularly curious about the ribbon beef sashimi. I may not be brave enough to try it, but the amazing colors and presentation could persuade me.

Helene said...

Love when you do reviews like this one. You are honest. The restaurant itself looks great and I like the way the food was plated.

Chef E said...

Oh man this is the third Korean food post I have read tonight...I had it a lot when I was in my twenties, and my kids even ate it as well. Did not know what I was eating sometimes, but it was great. You have blown me away with this post and pictures! Wish we had more in my area, but I will have to go into NY for anything close! Or back to Dallas soon...thanks for sharing this...

Wild Boar said...

If you go in a group then hopefully if you don't like it, others might and will finish it :-D

Thanks. It's not like I get paid by anyone, so I have no real compulsion to make any of the restaurants I write about sound good.

Chef E:
Its like the buses here in London: wait half an hour for one then three in a row come.

Hope you get to satisfy your Korean craving soon.

Janet @Gourmet Traveller 88 said...

I love the ribbon beef sashimi, although the idea of eating raw beef in korean cuisine is somewhat strange, my mom was horrified when she sees us eating that. But the pear mixed to the beef just taste so good! I am craving for some now already.

Big Boys Oven said...

I fine the quality looks much much better than what we have here in kayel!

Wild Boar said...

Janet @Gourmet Traveller 88:
Glad to see another fan!

Yeah raw beef is kinda weird, but the French and Japanese do it as well.

Big Boys Oven:
I've only eaten Korean once in KL in Sri Hartamas and I found it pretty good. But that was only once :-(

Snooty Primadona said...

Mmmmmmmmrrrrrrrrooww! Looks great to me. Fabulous pictures that made me feel like I was there.

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