We were itching for some Korean food, and one of the recommendations from the internets is Liang Ban Jia (兩班家), a Korean BBQ restaurant situated on Level 6 of the A9 Shin Kong Mitsukoshi department store in Taipei’s Xinyi District.
The place is apparently packed during peak hours, but we went early for Friday lunch and managed to snag a seat.
As with most department store restaurants in Taipei, the decor is top notch and the atmosphere very comfortable. The service is of course also excellent. They apparently have this special ventilation system that absorbs all the smoke and fumes from the BBQ plates so your clothes won’t get all stinky.
They have a couple of lunch sets, one at NT$980 per head and one at NT$780 per head. The annoying thing is that if you have only two people both of you have to get the same set, so you can’t say have one person order a set and the other order a la carte.
The good thing about getting a set is that you get more value for your money, especially since you get unlimited side dishes (such as kimchi and other pickled vegetables), but the bad thing is that your selection is set and you can’t order the things you like. You can, however, order one set of sides for NT$80.
In hindsight we probably should have gotten the set, but because we wanted specific things the sets didn’t have, like bibimbap and seafood pancake, we ended up ordering a la carte.
We couldn’t come to a Korean BBQ without getting some BBQ, so we ordered the TORO pork, the cheapest item on the menu at NT$240 for eight slices.
The waiters help you cook the meat, and they even use scissors to trim off the darkened edges. Apparently they don’t always do that if the restaurant is super busy, but they did so on this day.
See the sauces at the bottom of the above photo? The one on the left is the Korean chili bean sauce, which is not that spicy but fantastic with just about anything. The one on the right is a lemony soy sauce which gives the meat a nice kick.
That said, the TORO meat was not great. Kinda tasted very porky and chewy. No wonder it was so cheap.
The other meat we got was spicy chicken.
This took ages to cook. Needed a lot of patience. And the finished product was rather spicy. Unexpectedly spicy. Also not the greatest of choices (NT$280) but the beef was so expensive it would have made getting a la carte a rip off.
Next up, a spicy kimchi seafood soup.
Lots of stuff inside and they cook it right in front of you on a separate portable gas stove. The soup was nice but it was super spicy. Like numbingly spicy.
They also cook the bibimbap in front of you too, and ask how spicy you want it and how well-done you prefer it.
I have to say I really liked the bibimbap. I had to add some of that extra chili bean sauce but once I did it was excellent. Cooked to perfection and lots of great flavours. I wish I could have had more.
Last, but not least, the good old seafood pancake.
I also really liked this as it was thick and fluffy (some seafood pancakes are thin and crispy) and had solid fillings. The sauce was also sour and tangy, which went really well with it.
It was too much and we couldn’t finish everything, so we ended up taking a few pieces of seafood pancake back. We were also not close to finishing the soup. In hindsight, it probably would have been sufficient to skip the soup and the TORO pork, and perhaps upgrade the chicken to a better beef.
In sum, Liang Ban Jia is a perfectly solid Korean restaurant, but at NT$800-1000 per head it is a lot more expensive than similar quality restaurants elsewhere.
HOWEVER, I recently went back and tried out a different branch, at Shin Kong’s Tiemu store, and tried out one of the sets. It was a lot better, mostly because the quality of the meats were on a completely different level. So I’m revising my rating to give it a bump up.
Liang Ban Jia (兩班家)
Address: Level 6, Shin Kong Mitsukoshi A9, No. 9, Song Shou Road, Xinyi District, Taipei (nearest MRT Taipei City Hall/Taipei 101)
Phone: (02) 2720-1980
Hours: 11am-2:30pm, 5pm-9:30pm