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Review: Kogi & Vegi Korean Restaurant, Smallville, Iloilo City
Note: The original review was published Nov. 14, 2015.
Sundays are now considered family time and we, Filipinos, with our family-oriented background, aside from spending one to two hours in the church, would usually be spending the day with our families. As for ours, after-church family time would mean eating together in our usual favorite restaurant or trying out a new place. So last Sunday, we went to Kogi & Vegi, a Korean Restaurant in Smallville Boardwalk Park.
How to Get There
Aside from being situated in a prime location beside business centers, Kogi & Vegi is also accessible to people taking a stroll along Esplanade. If you’re driving from SM City, one of the biggest malls in Iloilo City along Diversion Road or Benigno Aquino Ave, go straight towards Taytay Diversion (bridge). Before reaching the actual bridge, turn right towards Dra. Rizalina V. Bernardo Avenue. A few meters along and you’ll start seeing restaurants. Kogi & Vegi is on the left side and for convenience, there are parking slots right outside the restaurant.
Kogi & Vegi Korean Restaurant, Smallville Riverside Boardwalk Park, Iloilo City
Ambiance and Overall Feel of the Place
It was our first time eating in a Korean restaurant as a group of six and the place looks promising. As expected, most of its decors are Korean-inspired or neutral (abstract wood). The place was spotless clean, bright and welcoming. Majority of the place was walled by glass panels so it looks airy. I’m conflicted with the glass walls though; I'm okay with it because I like eating while looking outside however, I’m not fond of the idea that passersby can see me devour my food. Anyways, the second level was also bright and very nice. The section facing Esplanade is open so you’re very welcome to dine facing the Iloilo River. They have lots of Korean guests who seemed to be so at home deliciously eating the native food they love and we were excited to try out something new.
The Menu and the Service
We were not familiar with the food aside from the popular ones so we completely relied on the menu. We had to ask for help from a couple of their staff/waiters. We appreciated that there was an attempt to answer some of our questions but felt that they also needed to learn more about their menu. It would’ve also helped if they were smiling more, it would’ve definitely made them appear friendlier and more accommodating.
As for the menu, Korean food absolutely stands out when it comes to color. The food in the menu looked appetizing, some looked spicy – maybe because they are red orange and you could associate it with Kimchi spiciness. They offered grilled pork and beef BBQ for groups, the main dishes included different types of bulgogi (marinated meat), bokkeum (stir fried in a sauce), ramen and meat and vegetable stews. You also get to have the first batch of the side dishes without extra charge.
Kogi & Vegi offered a variety of Korean-themed dishes and here were some of the food we ordered and shared;
Few minutes after we sat down and while waiting for our food, we were offered side dishes. We came as a group of six and our food came with two servings of side dishes of japchae (stir fried potato noodles with vegetables), sliced hard boiled eggs, cabbage kimchi (a very popular traditional Korean dish made of fermented vegetables, in this case, cabbage) and Mung bean sprouts. Approximately 20-30 minutes of waiting and the rest of our food followed.
Dolsot Bibimbap literally means “mixed rice” (Wikipedia). It’s a combination of hot rice, seasoned sautéed vegetables, chili pepper paste and other seasoning, meat, and topped with fresh or fried egg. You should mix all ingredients before eating.
Bibimbap is one of the most popular Korean foods locally mainly because aside from it being a complete meal, it’s also similar to Filipino flavor. This dish is also frequently available in Korean-themed fast food restaurants in mall food courts. Sadly though, Kogi & Vegi's serving of Dolsot Bibimbap was too small for its price. The taste was something I also would not consider outstanding though worth a second try. The photo below was taken after mixing the ingredients.
Hoedupbap (Top Photo)
This is a Korean dish of steamed rice topped with tuna sashimi, flying fish roe and vegetables. Just like Bibimbap, you should mix all ingredients prior to eating.
What a wonderful dish this is to the eyes. I loved the presentation and the colors green of the lettuce, the orange of fish roe and the pinkish red of tuna. It looked just like Christmas! It’s very appetizing yet it’s a dish you wouldn’t want to eat for fear of ruining it. The taste was refreshing and I really enjoyed the combination of vegetables, the savory sauce and the fish roe. This dish could feed one to two guests.
This is a spicy Korean stew and the main ingredient is a spine of a pig. Kogi & Vegi’s Gamja Tang also contained potatoes, crystal noodles, cabbage, crushed perilla seeds and leaves, spring onions and other spices.
Gamja Tang was my favorite! I'm not really into spicy food but this stew is just wonderful. The pork was so tender it almost melted in my mouth. The crushed perilla seeds, the spring onions, and the balanced spiciness with the aroma elevated the hot broth to a different level. We enjoyed this stew with servings of rice. It’s also good for groups as this could feed five to six guests. Because it has potatoes and cabbage leaves, it can be eaten even without rice and will still be perfect. This is a must try.
Value for Money
We also enjoyed some of their drinks and Korean ice cream and paid a little over Php2, 000. Not bad for a meal for six but there’s definitely a room for improvement especially when it comes to food servings and the quality of service.
I came to the place not having high expectations and I was pretty much satisfied with my overall experience. I liked the ambiance and the fact that most of the dishes contained vegetables. Before we left, we agreed that we’re definitely going back and try out some more of their dishes, maybe the grilled beef and pork BBQ with side dishes next time. Let's see if I'll score Kogi & Vegi differently. This time, I’m giving them an average score.