Although Suragan serves authentic Korean cuisine, the stylish decor and all-black color scheme might make you think you'd wandered into a trendy California-style restaurant by mistake. Bottles of homemade Korean fruit shochu are displayed perfectly to shine like lanterns in the dim light. The aroma of grilled meats greets you, but there's no smoke wafting from the tables. The dining area is spacious, with Korean pop playing in the background, and there's outdoor terrace seating in the summertime.
The specialty of the house here is bulgogi, a traditional Korean marinated and grilled meat dish. Before you start on the main course, though, we recommend trying the chijimi - a Korean-style pancake. Although this is a popular dish in Korean restaurants, Suragan's version is unique - it's prepared with soybeans and corn, served in a hot steel plate and cut up with a pair of scissors. As well as its wonderful flavor, we loved its texture - crispy on the outside and soft inside. It goes very well with a cold draft beer.
Other starters include assorted kimchi and Korean-style sashimi. We were impressed by the homemade kimchi's distinctive sour flavor, and our raw bonito went perfectly well with the hot miso paste it was served with.
Bulgogi at Suragan comes in both beef and pork versions. Personally we prefer the pork, which is on the spicier side, while the beef tends to be sweeter. The pork is cooked on a hot metal grill set into your table, along with mounds of bean sprouts, sliced onions, leeks and kimchi. The cooked meat and vegetables are then wrapped in lettuce leaves. The balance of flavor between the sourness of the kimchi and the sweet sauteed onions and bean sprouts is quite additctive.
Matching the excellent food here is an impressive drink menu. You can choose from a wide list of California and French wines - many served by the decanter - as well as champagne by the glass. Although we usually order beer, shochu or makkoli at Korean restaurants it's interesting to explore wines that can be paired with spicy Korean foods. Wines start from Y735/glass, Y2100/decanter and Y4200/bottle. Also worth trying are the Korean fruit shochus displayed at the entrance; there are ten varieties such as mango, pineapple and mandarin orange.
The service at Suragan is excellent, and the attentive manner of the staff reminds of the services at high-end resort restaurants in Bali and Thailand. Visiting this restaurant with a group of four or more would be recommended if you want to try two or more different bulgogi. Budget around Y5,000 for dinner with a few drinks; prix-fixe menus start at Y3675. By the way, Suragan means "king's dinner table" in Korean.
by Hikaru Okabe