Authentic Korean at Gogirou BBQ Meat Street

I’m tempted to call out, “An-nyeong-ha-se-yo…!” when I step into Gogirou BBQ Meat Street, the Korean restaurant at the ground level of Zenith Lifestyle Centre.

The indoor dining hall at Gogiru BBQ Meat Street
I learnt this greeting from my nieces, two of whom are caught up in the K-Pop wave and are well acquainted with Korean culture, TV serials, language, fashion and their food.

Speaking and cooking Korean is very much part of their lives now but as for me, I really like their jewellery designs and the flowing lines of the swirling hanbok, their traditional Korean costume.

My eyes are riveted to two ladies dressed in the traditional hanbok and I wonder if I should bow (Eh? But that’s more Japanese…), so I decide that it’s safe to just smile.

Since being introduced to the art of Korean dining by my Korean friends here, I’ve discovered the various preparations from soups, stews, pickles, barbecued meats to its rice wine.

Two elegantly dressed in the hanbok
Now I’m at the recently opened Gogirou for a review of their popular menu items and I soon meet my foodie-friend, Tony of Johor Kaki fame, who welcomes me to share his table.

Our hosts, Tammy Ng and Mark Teow, introduce us to the charming hanbok-clad lady, Bora Lee, the restaurant’s Operations Director.

Bora, who hails from Busan, is working with Chef Jeff Lee, a Korean with vast culinary experience in China – and who speaks Mandarin – to present a menu of dishes that are inspired by authentic recipes native of Ilsan, a town to the North-West of Seoul.

Mark confirms that their menu of authentic Korean cuisine is keeping homesick Koreans coming back for more. In fact, they recently catered regular meals for a group of visiting Korean students here.

Tables in the indoor area are designed with a barbecue grill in its center and diners are welcome to barbecue the meats themselves or ask the staff to help them.

An exhaust nozzle attached to a flexible duct, is suspended directly above the grill and it can be moved upwards or downwards on a retractable spring.

Marinated beef on the metal grill in the centre of our table
The indoor dining hall is designed with exhaust nozzles attached to a network of pipes in the ceiling that serves to absorb smoke and fumes from the smoking grills on every table and leaves the ventilation in the hall feeling cool and comfortable.

A pair of serving staff comes to lift the metal grill from the center of our table and I peek in to see a bowl of glowing charcoal set within a concealed chamber in the table. They rearrange the charcoal for better flames and start grilling the meats for us.

Three types of meat choices are being prepared for us: beef ribeye, marinated chicken and marinated beef. The staff move with dexterity to ensure that the meats are cooked just right and I observe how they change the grill after barbecuing each type of meat.

Some popular dishes at Gogirou BBQ Meat Street
Meanwhile, we are invited to sample the starter dish of Beef Bulgogi Salad, made with thinly sliced, tender grilled beef on a bed of greens and drizzled with an own-made tangy fruit dressing.

I pick up my pair of Korean chopsticks and carefully assemble its flat sides against my fingers and practice flexing its metal weight (quite unlike the wooden or plastic pairs that I’m used to!) before I start using them.

The grilled meats are ready and these juicy morsels can be eaten on its own or dipped in sauces and wrapped in fresh lettuce leaves with choices of raw garlic and other condiments.

Here, they pride themselves in preparing a range of authentic Korean dishes using Korean herbs and spices with cuts of quality meats like beef, chicken and pork that are marinated in their signature Gogirou sauce.

Chef Jeff Lee with a platter of Japchae
As its name describes, Gogirou BBQ Meat Street is certainly a destination for carnivores who appreciate the distinctive taste of Korean style, freshly barbecued meats.

I spy a dish of the quintessential Kim-Chi and help myself to a mouthful. I must confess that I’m not a great fan of this Korean pickled vegetable dish but here, I find its taste very agreeable – not too spicy or sour – and I cannot resist but reach out for another helping!

Tony and I breathe a collective sigh when a dish they call, Jurassic Galbi-jjim is served.

That long beef rib certainly gives this dish a primeval look! Stewed in signature Gogirou sauce, its soy sauce gravy is tasty and non-spicy, and the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender.

Bora and Mark tell us that the idea for this Jurassic Beef Rib dish was contributed by their general manager, Kim Sang Hyun, a Korean who also has a culinary background.

Then we meet Chef Lee who is all smiles as he presents us with a platter of Japchae, stir-fried glass noodles and vegetables.

Close-up of the "Be-Careful Sauce"
He returns to the kitchen to prepare the next dishes and very soon we are served Tteok-bokki, stir-fried rice cake and Honghap-tang, a mussel clear soup with a spicy flavour.

As in the Kim-Chi, the tangy taste of the gravy for Tteok-bokki is also rather agreeable!

Next comes a serving of Korean sushi roll, Gimbap. Bora kindly asks if we like to have a spicy dip sauce (Why not?) and she returns with a saucer filled with a sauce that appears deceptively harmless.

“Be careful,” warned Bora in her softly-spoken and Korean-accented English.

Heeding her words of warning seriously, Tony and I cautiously try a tiny dip of this potently spicy sauce and… Yes! There is a serious zing with a lingering heat!

Bora Lee serving us Korean rice wine
It’s not surprising then, that Bora’s special spicy sauce has earned its moniker as the “Be-Careful Sauce!”

Maybe they heard my request to get the Fire Brigade to be on standby, because I see Bora approaching with a little traditional copper kettle and starts pouring out a milky white drink into a matching copper bowl.

When she hands a bowl to me, it’s cool to the touch and I take a sip to discover that it’s chilled rice wine!

“It’s delicious!” I agree with Tony as we take bigger gulps (Oh! We can get used to this…) from our copper bowls.

Geonbae!” We say in unison as we raise our copper bowls to toast Gogirou on their official opening in Johor Baru! And “Gamsahamnida!” (Thank you!) for inviting me to your celebration.

One for the album: Congratulations Gogirou BBQ Meat Street on your official opening in Johor Baru!
Gogirou BBQ Meat Street, a NON-HALAL restaurant, is at G-05, Ground level of Zenith Lifestyle Centre – Suasana Iskandar Malaysia, 82-C Jalan Trus, 80000 Johor Baru

Situated directly opposite KOMTAR JBCC, there is also convenient walk-in access from Jalan Wong Ah Fook. For reservations, Tel: +607 – 295 6862.

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