COOKING one’s own meal is a pleasurable experience one can have in a Korean restaurant like Tony Lim’s Da Won restaurant along A.S. Fortuna St., Cebu City very near Gov. Cuenco Ave. Here, one is seated before a charcoal roaster with an electric induction stove at its side. The magic in the grill is that it’s smokeless: the smoke is funneled out of the restaurant by a device which interpreter Danielle Kim of Cebu Korean News describes as “Korean technology.”
The menu is in English and Korean but mostly tells, in English, the kind and cut of meat one may want: chicken, pork, beef, goat or fish. Your choice is then placed at the side of the roaster, ready cut in roasting pieces and marinated, for you to cook yourself in the roaster. With it are many small side dishes, mostly vegetables.
Chef Tony has been a chef for the past 30 years. He came to the Philippines on invitation to set up a restaurant in Davao, but his host closed shop and so he decided to go to Mactan and open Da Won restaurant near the airport. He has been there for 10 years already and opened his Cebu City outlet only six months ago when the opportunity came. Da Won is fronted by a short driveway and a small parking area (Lim also has an agreement with the Caltex station beside it for a 15-car parking slot). Those who have discovered the place have come back again and again, not just Koreans or fellow Asians but also those from the expat community residing near the area.
Chef Tony says: “Korean diet uses many kinds of veggies—cabbage, lettuce, radish, spring onions, garlic, ganda. We believe it is good for the health and I like some of the local vegetables like kangkong, green papaya and chayote. We also use various kinds of soy sauces, curry, chili paste and bean cake. Goat is very good for stress. To regain strength, we Koreans eat goat meat.”
Chef Tony knows more than 600 kinds of dishes in his mind, and about 60 of them are in his restaurant’s menu which he reviews almost every day. He has also tried to cook Philippine dishes and says his adobo is with Korean soy sauce. He has learned to love the country and will bring to Cebu his three teenage sons next year.
Easily among the favorite of Da Won customers is its bulgogi which is marinated beef one grills, and galbi, which is beef ribs that one also grills. With these dishes, there are a number of side dishes Koreans call “bancham.” Among these are kimchi (which can come in various degrees of spiciness and which is a-must bancham), potato salad, egg casserole, bean sprouts, spinach, dried mushrooms and papaya achara. For soup to go with these beef dishes is its soy bean paste stew kept heated in the induction electric stove (soy bean sauce is very good for the health according to Chef Tony), cold glass noodles and a green salad, premixed but which one eats by folding the salad into lettuce leaves. Plain rice can also be had, or in the form of bimbimbap which is rice topped with vegetables and various meats.
Da Won also serves food that is made by the restaurant’s kitchen for those who don’t like to grill their own food. The place has several function rooms and can accommodate a total of 200 persons. It is open from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. The afternoon hours are for the kitchen to make all those small side dishes it serves with the main course, as well as for those wanting an afternoon snack of noodles or dumplings.