Big Mama Korean Restaurant

We really called it when we declared Tiong Bahru the next IT ‘hood last year (download our handy Tiong Bahru guide), and things don’t seem to be easing up, what with new spots like month-old Po Tea To and PS. Cafe setting up shop at the space formerly inhabited by White Canvas Gallery—irrefutable evidence that the gentrification of Tiong Bahru is almost complete. But unlike the other newbies, Big Mama’s more of a comfy hole-in-the-wall setup with a menu that veers towards home-style fare and most patrons made up of folk living nearby (which explains the unofficial berms, slippers and T-shirt dress code).

Go with their signature dakgalbi ($15/person, minimum two people), an umami-laden, spicy grilled chicken dish that’s cooked a la minute with a medly of vegetables and some of the best and springiest topokki (rice cakes) we’ve had since our last trip to Seoul. Be sure to follow that up with the fried rice option ($3/person) that’s done in the same pan, dressed with sesame oil, crisp seaweed and kimchi. We would have been happy with just that and the six different banchan, side dishes, of which the lightly sweetened strips of skate fish was an easy favorite, but decided to give the haemul kimchijeon (kimchi and seafood pancake; $15) and beef bulgogi ($15) a shot. Both are passable, although the pancake is a tad too greasy and the beef somewhat pedestrian.

It’s a low-key Korean joint with decent grub, but what’s particularly appealing is the relaxed vibe of this welcome addition to the neighborhood, accentuated by well-meaning wait staff. The fact that it’s open till late is a real plus.

Don’t miss: Dakgalbi. It’s one of I-S Magazine’s 50 things to eat in Singapore before you die (2012).