Eat on. Game on.
- 8 Sep 2017 at 04:00
- WRITER: ERIC E SURBANO
The setting: It's a shame not a lot of people have heard about Hopeland. Within the offering of bars and restaurants at Thong Lor's 72 Courtyard, this one is at the very back on the the ground floor. At first glance, it seems to be your typical bar and restaurant. Lights in neon purple, steel tables, thumping music to get you going -- the usual. But don't judge a book by its cover. Hopeland does pride itself in its array of Korean dishes as well as its Tiki drinks, and we'll talk about that later. The thing that makes Hopeland special is its arcade games. And no, we're not just referring to those two arcade machines near the entrance and the kitchen where you can play games like Street Fighter and Tekken. There are also arcade games built into the tables. Yep, you read that right. While eating your food and nursing your drink, there's no need to get up from your seat; you can play some Pac-Man or Donkey Kong right there at your table. You can even take turns and play as two-players! You can game all you want, of course, but will you be feasting on good food as well? Or is Hopeland simply just another gimicky resto and bar? Read on.
Chef Zach Watkins helms Hopeland's kitchen. He was first at Toro Bangkok which made us a tad bit sceptical about the food. After all, Spanish and Korean dishes are worlds apart. But as soon as we got to try Hopeland's Korean dishes, our scepticism was laid to rest. Take a glance at the menu and you'll see that it's split into two aptly named categories: Single Player and Multiplayer, so there's dishes you can have all to yourself or to share.
From left: BBQ combo platter; Blood and sand.
We started off our Korean feast (while intermittently stopping to play some Space Invaders) with some Bulgogi kimchi fries (B260++). This is a dish that's easy to snack on while dominating in Galaga as well as a great one to share with friends. The fries surprisingly remain crispy despite the generous helping of sauce and the beef mixed in with it, which makes the dish a little chewy. Another dish we think is a great starter is the Spicy rice cakes + oxtail (B200). There's kimchi mixed in with the traditional chewy Korean rice cakes and there's also a creamy quality to it, along with a gamey undertone due to the meat. The contrasting texture of the crunchy spring onions and shallots with the chewy rice cakes and meat gives the dish a uniqueness that we thoroughly enjoyed.
Moving on to dishes that are suitable for main course dining, Hopeland has also got its own version of the famous Korean chicken wings simply called Fried chicken wings (B240). Sufficiently crunchy thanks to the beer batter used to coat it, the wings are also glazed with Korean red pepper sauce that gives it a spicy kick, strong enough so that you'll be thankful it was served with sticky rice on the side.
Bulgogi kimchi fries.
One of the most famous Korean dishes globally is not one that came from a Korean restaurant, but a pre-packaged one named Shin Ramyun. Taking inspiration from this, Hopeland has the Spicy miso pork belly ramyun (B260). The broth is inspired by the famous instant ramen noodle and served with crunchy pork belly on the side. It's a great contrasting texture to the creamy soup and chewy noodles. The soup itself is a thing of beauty.
Finally, there's the BBQ combo platter (B790) which is served with a selection of meat, a number of side dishes of carrots and string beans, and cabbage. The way it's eaten entails having to wrap the cabbage around your choice of meat and sides, kinda like a sort-of-healthy veggie burrito. Actually, the meat by itself is already tasty. It's marinated well and is juicy, but eating it the traditional way and experimenting with different combinations is a fun way to discover the various flavours this dish can bring.
Let's not forget that Hopeland isn't just a Korean restaurant, but it's also a Tiki bar. It's got various drinks to choose from like the cute Dolphin next door (B340) which deceivingly tastes like a milkshake or the East Bay funk drunk (B360) which is a little more on the stronger side. They've also got the Blood and sand (B420) which, despite its name, is actually pretty fruity and not that strong.
Spicy miso pork belly ramyun.
Like we said, it's a shame not a lot of people know about Hopeland yet. But that also means it isn't crowded... at least not yet! Be one of the few to enjoy Hopeland while it's still a hidden gem! Also, here's a fun game to play with friends: choose any two-player game from the arcade at the tables. Whoever loses owes the winner a Tiki drink!
VALUE AND VERDICT
Thong Lor is a hang-out haven for Bangkokians, but mostly it's just eating and drinking. Here at Hopeland, you have all that plus games you can play with friends. The prices may be considered a little steep, but it's worth it for a fun hang sesh with friends.
Spicy miso pork belly ramyun.
Spicy rice cakes + oxtail.
72 Courtyard, Thong Lor