Korea’s America-style Fast Food Joint Not to Call Burger ‘a Burger’

Does anyone know if Coca-cola is sold within the borders of North Korea? Is it even possible to just rename / rebrand EVERYTHING American? Sooner or later, something’s gonna get through and Kimmy is (or his sons are) gonna be like … “aww crap.”

And just what are they gonna call “hot dogs”?!?! A …  (I’m not even going to bother)

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Korea’s America-style fast food joint not to call burger ‘a burger’
Ani
July 27th, 2009

PYONGYANG – While North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has finally allowed his countrymen to eat American fast food with the opening of country’s first fast food joint in Pyongyang, the joint is careful not to call any item by American names, like burger.

On the menu is a tasty “minced beef and bread” that’s definitely not American.

The restaurant called – Samtaesong — has been set up in cooperation with a Singaporean company, which provided training to staff and supplied equipment, The Sun reports.

Inside, it’s just like a normal fast-food joint – but the menu is careful not to call its signature fare a hamburger.

That’s because the isolated country’s authoritarian government doesn’t want the outside world to think North Koreans have embraced the iconic American meal.

Paranoid officials – fearing a popular revolt against Kim Jong-il – won’t let foreign words be used and coin alternatives in Korean instead.

Most people in the poverty-ravaged state that suffers chronic food shortages won’t be able to afford to eat out at Samtaesong though.

The cost of a burger – just 1.70 dollars – would eat up more than half of the average North Korean’s daily income.

The restaurant also offers kimchi – Korean pickled cabbage – as well as waffles and draft beer.

And it plans to add croissants and hot dogs to its menu in the coming months – but with Korean names. (ANI)

Restaurant Bobby Chinn is Overrated!

So before I left for Hanoi, I did a bit of research online on where I might be able to find popular / good restaurant … decent ones, of course (in the event that we can no longer handle street foods). One restaurant that consistently came out on top was Restaurant Bobby Chinn. Our “Lonely Planet Hanoi & Halong Bay Encounter” guide also mentioned the same restaurant and so we decided to give it a shot.

Restaurant Bobby Chinn

Restaurant Bobby Chinn

We made a reservation for 6 at 7:45PM and having got there on time, we still had to wait 10 minutes for our table. Meanwhile,  2 pairs of visitors came later than us, went in before us. To be fair though, the staff were probably setting up the table for us, a group of 5 … but still.

The decor inside was dimly lit and with all the red (silk) curtains draping about, I thought it was a liiiittle bit cheesy. And because it was so dimly lit, each one of us were given a magnifying glass with a built-in lamp so that you can see the menu clearer. I actually didn’t mind that; in fact, I thought that was quite a novelty. It felt as thought the restaurant was trying a little too hard making the decor “romantic”, but at the same time, it was fun.

I also like the menu a lot too … it seems Mr. Bobby Chinn has quite a sense of humour and I quote:

Creative Menu from Restaurant Bobby Chinn

Creative Menu from Restaurant Bobby Chinn

Restaurant Bobby Chinn
December 23rd, 2008 – January 31st, 2009

In the unlikely event of a terrorist hostage-taking situation in this restaurant, please DO NOT call the Russian Special Forces. I would rather be pecked to death by a duck! In the year of the rooster, otherwise known as “Cock” Bird Flu! It was NOT a promising year for Dogs in the “Year of the Dog” here in Vietnam. Last year “Year of the Pig”, sucked for every pig all over the world, (but that’s another story). Lets all hope for this continued trend in the “Year of the Rat” Now you can honestly say you ate in a restaurant where Cock, Dog and Rat were on the menu

Appetizers

  • Japanese Eggplant Salad with Haricots Vert, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Shallots, Soy Vinaigrette $9.00
  • Moroccan Beet Salad with Hazelnut Crusted Goat Cheese & House Vinaigrette $10.00
  • Warm White Bean & Seafood Salad, Finished with White Truffle Oil $11.00
  • Seared Day Boat Scallops with Braised Edamae and Truffle Pea Jus $18.00
  • Steamed Prawn Lotus Salad with Herbs and Chili Lime Vinaigrette $11.00
  • Tropical Seafood Ceviche, Mangosteen Coconut Truffle Jus $12.00
  • Duck Confit, Lemongrass Scented Lentils with Chipotle Sauce $16.00
  • Flour Tortilla Quesadilla’s with Mango Chipotle Salsa $11.00
  • Steak Salad with Eggplants and Chipotle Sauce $9.00″

And on the other page:

Entrees (Otherwise Known as Main)
Dumb cows that thought they were living in India or something. Lambs that had no idea about Islam & Cold-blooded seawater & freshwater creatures that didn’t have a chance or even a clue!

  • Grilled Prawn with Sweet Coconut Sticky Rice, Red Curry Sauce $17.00
  • Filet Mignon with Mashed Potatoes, Mushroom Red Wine Ragout $27.00
  • Symphony Of Flavours, the Chef’s Signature Bite-Size Appetizers $21.00
  • Mezze Platter, Vegetarian Nirvana on a Plate with Homemade Bread $15.00
  • Caramelised “Salmon” in Clay Pot, Cucumber Salad & Stir Fried Rice $18.00
  • Braised Lamb Shank, Gnocchi, Spinach, Pine Nuts and Raisins Lamb Jus $25.00
  • “THE BURGER” 180 grams of mouth-watering heaven and Truffled French Fries $15.00
  • Green Tea Smoked Duck with Black Sticky Rice, Baby Bok Choy & Pomegranate Jus $20.00
  • “The” Pan Roasted Salmon on Wasabi Mashed Potatoes, Vegetables, Ginger Demi Glace $20.00
  • Blackened Barramundi on Braised Banana Blossoms with a Turmeric Balsamic Vinaigrette $17.00
  • 5 Spiced Smoked Zealand Rack of Lamb with Apple Risotto, Red Wine Lamb Jus Reduction $30.00
  • Grilled Lemon-Scented Poussin with Gnocchi, Spinach, Pine Nuts and Sultans with Red Wine Sauce $18.00

If you are a VEGETARIAN, then it looks like you are pretty much screwed again! Have no fear, we have a very good Vegetarian Menu, but being a big tree hugger myself, I do not want to waste paper or ink (e.g. heavy petroleum distillate). I am sure you can understand. Price is negotiable if you wear Birkenstocks or Jesus sandals.

Bar Food, Side Dishes & Midnight Munchies

  • We tell you “You are beautiful” all night long. (Includes a signed copy of the menu.) $5.00
  • Mashed Potatoes, Sauteed Vegetables, Truffled Mushroom Pho Cuon, Garden Greens, Salmon Cha $6.50
  • Fried Calamari, BBQ Pork Ribs, Mac & Cheese $6.50
  • Grape Goat Cheese 8.00
  • Nachos $10.00

Restaurant Bobby Chinn Rules:
This restaurant is an Abba, Kenny G, and Gypsy King Free Zone. We also refuse to play any bands with more than one lead singer or matching sweater. Female Teenyboppers dressed like whores with synchronized dancing are also banned! To preserve the dining experience, we request that you are well versed in mobile phone etiquette (SILENCE). All our Poultry & Meats are Halal or as close as it gets to Kosher … Except the Pork of course! None of the staff were harmed (physically) to bring you quality food and service tonight, or ever. Children’s menu available upon request and duct tape is available for hyperactive children. Please do not ask us to split the bill other than by a number. We do not do “She had this, and I had 1/2 of that” very well. Please note that we have smaller portions at the same prices for Anorexics and those aspiring. Also this restaurant allows smoking, non-smokers, please refrain from farting in the smoking section, unless it’s a cigar. that you …”

ANYWAY, enough about the menu, let’s get right into the food:

We were given a complimentary starter; some sort of a sushi-like thing, actually I have no clue what its called, or what it is. All I heard was that it included foie gras and was topped with some sirloin steak? Personally, I thought it was a little odd to start off with that … it wasn’t really an “appetite teaser” if you know what I mean.

The Opening Act

The Opening Act

Then came our 3 appetizers for sharing. They were:

  • Fried Calamari (which actually isn’t on the Appetizers menu, we just wanted it)
  • Japanese Eggplant Salad with Haricots Vert, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Shallots, Soy Vinaigrette
  • Steak Salad with Eggplants and Chipotle Sauce
Fried Calamari

Fried Calamari

Japanese Eggplant Salad with Haricots Vert, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Shallots, Soy Vinaigrette

Japanese Eggplant Salad with Haricots Vert, Toasted Sesame Seeds, Shallots, Soy Vinaigrette

Steak Salad with Eggplants and Chipotle Sauce

Steak Salad with Eggplants and Chipotle Sauce

(last 2 photos taken with flash covered with napkin)

I quite like their appetizers; the calamaris were fresh and both the Japanese Eggplant Salad and Steak Salad was on par with what I had in mind. The eggplants were lightly salted, and the greens were also dressed with the right amount of vinaigrette. For the steak salad, the meat was tender and was cooked to medium, which make them quite juicy – just how I like my steak done too!

Burger with Truffled Fries

Burger with Truffled Fries

Then, for my maincourse, I had the Burger with Truffled Fries … the burger was just a normal burger with an average patty. They got my burger (medium well; I wanted to be a little safer and had gone with a slightly more cooked patty) mixed with my friend’s (medium rare) and when we told them about the issue, they just apologized and didn’t offer to replace my friend’s burger. Bad service.

Anyway, the burger wasn’t bad. As it turned out, my now medium rare patty was better than I had expected … but for what I’m paying, its definitely not a “gourmet” burger. It was on par with most burgers I can find in Hong Kong … except, the patty was a little on the dry-side here. What was an interesting concept was the french fries with a coat of truffle flavors – probably mixed with some truffle oil. It was a good touch, but overall, I thought it was a sad attempt in making this dish more gourmet than it really is. Without the word “Truffle” in the name, I can probably put together this dish at home.

Grilled Prawn with Sweet Coconut Sticky Rice, Red Curry Sauce

Grilled Prawn with Sweet Coconut Sticky Rice, Red Curry Sauce

I tried a bit of this and found nothing special about this dish either.

Symphony of Flavours, the Chefs Signature Bite-size Appetizers

Symphony of Flavours, the Chefs Signature Bite-size Appetizers

I definitely liked the name … and that’s probably what convinced my friend on the dish, but as it turned out … this was also nothing special. It felt a bit like arranging nicely on a plate what we could’ve got in a Thai / Vietnamese buffet dinner.

Green Tea Smoked Duck with Black Sticky Rice, Baby Bok Choy and Pomegranate Jus

Green Tea Smoked Duck with Black Sticky Rice, Baby Bok Choy and Pomegranate Jus

My friend got this duck dish and this apparently, wasn’t too bad (I didn’t try, so I couldn’t tell you whether its good or not).

Finally, this was a complimentary dessert: A Chocolate Taco.

Chocolate Taco

Chocolate Taco

The skin was bland and the chocolate cream (at least, that’s what I think it is), is a little stronger in taste – as in, I can taste some chocolate. But as you can see from the photo, there’s some condensation on the “taco” skin meaning it was probably in the fridge for quite some time and they’re probably going to throw it again anyway, so might as well give it out. But hey, this was a good photo isn’t it?

In retrospect, we probably went in with very high expectations (well, I did anyway) since people were raving about it so much and that “Hillary Clinton” visited the restaurant while she visiting Hanoi. The food was average, but prices were above-average even for US standards, but this is Hanoi we’re talking about. The bill came up to about USD 250 for 5 people (we had 2 bottles of wine, though), but consider this: Vietnamese pho noodle is selling at USD 1 per bowl across the street!

Points for Creativity

Points for Creativity

I believe part of the hype surrounding this restaurant is because there are so few gourmet restaurants in Hanoi. In fact, I can only think of Bobby Chinn outside of a hotel setting. And where else would you go if you’re sick of Vietnamese food? Well, I have lots of other choices in Hanoi … but for most expats, I suppose this is one of only a few choices.

Will I go back again? Very unlikely. We should’ve gone with Le Beaulieu Restaurant at the Sofitel Metropole Hanoi. I’d like for anyone who’s tried this restaurant to let me know what its like! Sorry Bobby.

Siu Yeh Rating: 5.5/10

Restaurant Bobby Chinn
1 Ba Trieu Street, Hoan Kiem District
Hanoi, Vietnam

Freshness Burger

I got the Classic Cheese Burger at Freshness Burger (at Windsor House) the other day + 1 side + 1 cold drink totaling HKD 61. The environment was tidy and my meal arrived in less than 10 minutes, which I thought was a little longer than expected given there were only 6-8 other customers in the restaurant at the time, which wasn’t even a quarter of the restaurant’s capacity.

Menu at Freshness Burger

Menu at Freshness Burger

Interior at Freshness Burger in Windsor House

Interior at Freshness Burger in Windsor House

The Classic Cheese Burger I had was pretty good. The buns were soft and toasted on the insides. The condiments were well balanced (it included ketchup and mayo) and the lettuce and tomatoes were fresh and well cut. The patty was also very juicy, but it wasn’t cooked on a mean grill as you can probably see from the light color and soft texture of the patty (pictured below). That’s because it was cooked on a teppanyaki-like grill, rather than an open flame, which I prefer. My only problem is that the cheese could’ve been slightly more melted before serving … actually, both the patty and the cheese could’ve probably rested on the grill for a little longer, but I suppose this is healthier, which I believe is what Freshness Burger is trying to promote.

Classic Cheese Burger at Freshness Burger

Classic Cheese Burger at Freshness Burger

Here’s what is printed on their tray paper, word-for-word, typos and grammar mistakes included.

Where it all began …

Freshness Burger as a neightbordhood cafe in 1992 in Japan serving Home Made Quality Burger a variety of home styled beverages and desserts. Due to its immense popularity it grew rapidly over the last 15 years and has established itself as a Premium Burger Cafe in Japan with more than 250 shops. Encouraged by its success, Freshness Burger has since expanded into Korea and has now open its 6th shop in Hong Kong.

Freshness Burger … A Cafe With a Difference

As suggested by our Motto ” Be Fresh”, our philosophy is to provide a brand new experience to all our customers. We take pride in remvcnring the traditional burger experience by offering freshly made to order burgers that are healthy yet fullfilling as well as a range of food and beverages made from organic ingredients in relaxed environment. We welcome you to Freshness Burger to experience “A home away from home” and meet our friendly staff at our tastefully decorated and trendy stores.

Remvcnring their neightbordhood Freshness Burgers

Remvcnring their neightbordhood Freshness Burgers

I took me a while to guess what “remvcnring” meant … I think they meant “reminiscing”. Then there’s “neightbordhood”. This is no Japan or China … get the English right!

By the way, I would say the price at Freshness Burger is about half of what Shake’em Buns and probably about a quarter what Duke’s Burger charges. If you were to just get a Classic Cheese Burger (HKD 55) + a soft drink (+HKD 5), that’ll be HKD 60. For the same set-up at Shake’em Buns, it’ll be around HKD 110 easy.

Siu Yeh Rating: 6/10

Freshness Burger
Shop No. 110, Windsor House
311 Gloucester Rd.
Causeway Bay, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 3486 2833

Fat Burger Finally Opening in Hong Kong?

After what seems like more than 9 months with at the QRE Plaza with signage that says “Fat Burger: Coming Soon” (or something to that effect), I thought it was never going to happen. I thought maybe the burger chain got into some bad disputes with the building owner even before they started operating. But now, the boards are gone and now you can finally see that something really is getting done inside!

I’ve had Fat Burger about 5 times at the Venetian in Macau and their quality has always been fairly consistent. Definitely not bad, but nothing fancy.

Fat Burger to Open Soon in Hong Kong?

Fat Burger to Open Soon in Hong Kong?

Especially with the burger craze in Hong Kong in the last couple of years, we’ve seen burger joints such as Duke’s Burger, Burger Republic, Atomic Patty, Shake ’em Buns to just name a few. Fat Burger will be having a tough time competing … and the economy’s not helping either.

Don’t you worry, I will pay you a visit.

Fat Burger
QRE Plaza, Wanchai
(Opposite Hopewell Centre)