Hip hip Oori!
South Korea has taken over the hearts of Filipinos. Hit hard by the so called hallyu or Korean Wave, the influence of South Korean pop culture, Pinoys are obsessed with anything related to the East Asian country from K-pop to -beauty and -drama.
As a matter of fact, the Korea Foundation found that in 2018 the Philippines had the highest growth rate of hallyu fans among 113 countries. South Korean shows appeal to the Filipino’s sentimentality and emotional side, not to mention, we are admirers of attractive people, and the image or idea of perfection—flawless, fair, white complexion, tall, and skinny.
Filipinos are also meat-lovers and buffet buffs, therefore, Korean barbecues are a hit. There is a Korean food joint in every corner of Manila, at least seventy stores are scattered throughout the metro alone. I’ve had my fair share of Korean barbecues, some of which, I believe many would agree with, are the best, like Samgyupsalamat, KPub, and Gen Korean BBQ House. But it was only recently that I discovered Oori, Sheraton Manila’s Korean restaurant. And I can say with full confidence that it is currently one of the best Korean food establishments out there.
Oori is Korean for “our,” inspired by the hotel’s branding and philosophy of being a place where family and friends gather. True enough, from the luxe interior to the service, the management to the food, everything is premium, people are bound to come back.
As in any typical Korean barbecue, customers can enjoy their personal choice of meat served with refillable or “unli” banchan or Korean side dishes. But actually, there are many things that sets it apart from other Korean restaurants. The first three are their grills and ventilation system, as well as the variety of meat. Each dining table is equipped with two kinds of grills, a flat grill and a net grill, the former for pork while the latter for beef. As for the exhaust, they boast of their state of the art downdraft, smokeless ventilation, which, as its name suggests, filters the air downward meaning no physical smoke can be seen when you cook. The meats are high grade, but we’ll get to that later.
There are two parts of Oori, the Bibimbap, their streetfood concept, and the Korean barbecue. Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, represented by editor AA Patawaran and myself, were joined by well-being columnist Dr. Kaycee Reyes and by the director of marketing communications of Marriott Hotel Manila Michelle Garcia in a recent dinner at Oori.
It was an intimate dinner, inside one of their private dining rooms. For those interested to book, the seating capacity is based on the new normal setup. There are currently five private rooms namely Daewon (VIP 1), Silla (VIP 2), and Injo (VIP 3) that can accommodate four guests each for ₱5,000, Joseon (VIP 4) can accommodate six for ₱8,000 each, and Seonjo (VIP 5) can accommodate eight guests for ₱10,000 per guest.
We had their bestsellers. First was the classic Bibimbap menu, particularly the Bulgogi Bibimbap, Dakgangjung, and the Tteok Bokki, all prepared by executive chef Fancisco “Kiko” Santiago, the first-ever Filipino executive chef for the brand, with Korean executive chef Park Kibum. Both executive chefs made mention of the development process of the menu. Prior to the opening of the restaurant December, 2019, the two went to South Korea to taste test authentic Korean barbecue. The outcome are fairly-priced but incredibly delicious dishes for the upscale market.
Their basic or traditional bibimbap, the Bulgogi Bibimbap, is luscious and crunchy, has fermented notes, and a sweet soy sauce paste that has a little spice to it. The marinated beef seeps with savory, smoky flavors, and is portioned just right with the rice. When the Bibimbap selection was created, there were other unique variations from spicy pork to chicken, and sisig to tartare bibimbap, explained chef Kibum, who manages the Korean barbecue aspect of the restaurant.
The Dakgangjung or Korean fried chicken is a straightforward dish, with a marvelous sweet and spicy glaze. The boneless chicken is marinated in fresh milk for an hour, the reason as to why the meat is very tender, making it a joy to eat. What’s even more noteworthy is that the flavor is not only in the coating but also apparent in the meat itself. Also served was rice and fish cake with sweet and spicy sauce, Tteok Bokki.
The last dish from the ala carte menu was the Haemul Denjang Jjigae. The Korean soybean paste soup has a rich broth, made of anchovy stock with radish and leeks, packed with flavors. Inside the bowl are prawn, squid, mussels.
The beef has a +9 grade, which in Australian wagyu grading system is the highest, meaning the meat has extraordinary amounts of marbling. It is buttery, a tad sweet, savory, with delicate notes of umami.
Onto the samgyupsal. Their top-of-the-line meats include the Duroc Spanish Pork, with the choice of belly, collar, and jowl parts, and the Australian Mulwarra Wagyu Beef. The Duroc pork, known for the juiciness and relatively mild flavor, are only fed chestnuts, giving it a refined and more pronounced crisp taste. The beef, on the other hand, has a +9 grade, which in Australian wagyu grading system is the highest, meaning the meat has extraordinary amounts of marbling. The beef is buttery, a tad sweet, savory, with delicate notes of umami. There is also a 5-grade option for the beef.
No Korean meal is complete without bingsu, their shaved ice desert reminiscent of our halo-halo. What we had was the Mango Bingsu. The crushed ice drizzled with milk is smooth and creamy, balanced with the right sweetness and thickness. There is a generous amount of toppings as well. Not only is the bingsu fantastic flavor-wise, the serving size is huge too. The traditional Korean dessert also has a Fresh Mixed Fruits variant.
Stringent health and safety protocols are observed throughout the entire facility. Careful and frequent disinfection, sanitation, sneeze guards, social distancing practices, QR-code enabled menu, and contactless payment are some of the best practices of the hotel.
Oori is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. (02) 7902-1800 | (0956) 317-3986 | marriottbonvoyasia.com/restaurants-bars/Sheraton-Manila-Hotel-Oori-Restaurant