There’s a line in the press release that goes: “Daejim brings Kdrama vibes to Singapore’s culinary scene.” While this is more or less par for the course for most releases, the cynic in me auto-translates that as a tell-tale sign of a product that needs to ride the coattails of trends to have a leg to stand on. I apologise. Because if this is some Kdrama-level setup of a plot twist, then consider myself utterly Six-Sensed (obviously someone who doesn’t watch Kdrama, tsk).
Daejim calls its fare a modern twist on traditional Korean pojangmacha, which is essentially street food consisting mainly of grilled meat and seafood. The decor is somewhat nondescript in a vibrant area packed with all manner of restaurant concepts and hawker fare, but it’s perfect for what it is: a laidback vibe that’s conducive to a night of BBQ comforts.
It was a different story altogether on the shop floor. Daejim staff were frantically trying to keep things running like clockwork, while the manager gesticulates with the precision of a Kapellmeister, cueing once again the refrain for the staff to work the exhaust fan with an OCD-like obsession–they’re almost terrified of allowing even a whiff of smoke into the open air. Daejim had just completed work on the restaurant, so the staff were effectively doing this for the first time, and it was all the more impressive. Truth be told, it all almost felt a little excessive, but we were certainly moved by the commitment to do things right. For one, our garments were certainly thankful at the end of the night.
But ah yes, the food. Let’s face it, Daejim’s pojangmacha may be street food in name, but street food price it is not. I think we all know the score by now; in Singapore at least. But while Daejim serves up arguably ‘simple’ fare, the ingredients used certainly justify the price. From what we understand, the seafood is flown in fresh from Korea and the proof is in the pudding (they don’t serve pudding, though).
The Banchan will get you onto the perfect start, and that’s where you have your first taste of their homemade kimchi, which I wager will likely be one of the better ones that you will have. And it’s dangerously addictive to boot; an umami bomb that’s neither too sour nor too spicy. The same homemade kimchi is used in the Kimchi Jiagae ($18), one of the two soups that we tried that night. As hearty as the Sundubu Jiagae ($18), a spicy tofu stew, was, we couldn’t help returning to the kimchi. But you can pick either without any worries, so just let your mood decide.
For the unadventurous, the Ganjang Gejang ($40) is probably something that may frighten the crap out of you, pun unintended. The soy-marinated raw crab may look daunting for those who prefer their food well-cooked and well-dressed, but this was surprisingly the best dish of the night; rich to the point of almost being creamy, and a timely reminder that having good and fresh ingredients makes all the difference in the world. It can be a little cloying (really jelak, bro), so be forewarned.
But if you want something more conventional, the Seafood Set (3 oysters, 3 scallops, 2 abalones, 1 squid, 1 grilled mackerel, $118) will be right up your alley–the joys of fresh seafood without the intimidation factor. The scallops with cheese (6 for $40, a la carte) are junk-food levels addictive too. I’m seeing a pattern here.
But I’d imagine that the BBQ meats are what most people are signing up for when they think of a place like Daejim. And the offerings certainly don’t disappoint. Well-marinated, quality ingredients are the name of the game, so hone in on their selection of wagyu and dwaeji (Jeju black pig). Prices start from $72 (chicken and pork set) for a Meat Set for two to four people and go up to $158 for a premium beef set. A la carte options are also available, so don’t forget to have the Dwaeji Galbi ($25, a la carte) somewhere in your order.
While you can certainly have a fun time ordering just regular Jinro sojus and beer as would at most Korean BBQs, perhaps you can give Daejin’s take on soju cocktails a fair crack of the whip for something a little different. That said, we only had one–Magnificent Lady (rose lychee)–and that was decent and stood up to heavy BBQ flavours. I think it’s safe to reason that the rest should work too. But what we really think you should spring for is the Honeycomb Makgeolli ($38, serves 2 pax); it goes best with the food and it never gets nauseatingly sweet despite that chunk of honeycomb lingering in your cup.
Daejim can get a little expensive if you’re having one of those nights where everyone is just ordering the first thing that comes to mind willy-nilly. But I think it’s perfectly justified. Set aside the cash, keep your bellies empty and get ready for a hearty meal of a time.
- Daejim - 8/108/10
Indulgent comfort food that doesn’t come cheap, but certainly one you won’t regret over-indulging in.