Lava Rock kindly invited me and 3 guests to try their new Thai BBQ Steamboat (Mookata). They previously used to only have the Grill House (6 outlets) selling steak and others.
Personally my favourite BBQ would be Japanese Yakiniku because of the charcoal grill and good meat. My least favourite is the Korean type which I do not understand the hype it is experiencing right now. I once went to a Korean BBQ buffet which is popular among teenagers due to cheap pricing and had a terrible experience because the smoke was so bad I couldn’t even open my eyes. The enclosed space had poor ventilation and breathing was a chore too. They used a hot plate for the grill which resulted in terrible smoke. Needless to say, everyone who left the place smelt bad and they even provided Febreeze (which did not really help). It didn’t help that I ended up with the worst stomach ache ever.
For LavaRock Thai BBQ, it is located in a coffeeshop in Hougang, next to their Grill House outlet. The ventilation is ample and there were several strong power fans to provide comfort and good circulation. I must add that the fan looked very clean, giving me a peace of mind.
The main difference between Mookata and the typical Chinese BBQ Steamboat at Bugis is that the grill is in the centre, while the soup is surrounding! The juices from the grilled food will trickle down into the soup, giving it great flavour towards the end.
We were given a 3-4pax set, with additional beef and fish skin. The set normally comes with everything but the additional 2. I have not eaten Mookata before but comparing to pictures from other restaurants, the ingredients used seems to be typical of Mookata. And that includes sausage and crabstick. I initially thought they were there to suit taste buds of kids but I guess it’s a Mookata thing.
We chose the chicken soup for our soup base. The owner James explained that the chicken used was free range chicken for best flavour. Indeed the flavour of the broth was very good. The other option was Tom Yum. It was a tough choice to decide on one!
Charcoal is used as the heat source which I really appreciate. Charcoal grill makes a huge difference to the outcome of the cooking. I am glad they stuck to this tradition, unlike some places which deviated by using other types of heat. BBQ should always have charcoal. The cooking process is meant to be slow and steady. The heat is gentle and the soup will not be bubbling hot. I noticed that my meat did not overcook even when left too long on the grill, which is a good thing because I had my fair share of burnt meat at other BBQ concepts. Due to the slow cooking process, the entire meal took around 2 hours to complete, so this is not a quick fix. The charcoal lasted about that long too.
Pork Collar, Pork Liver, Chicken Thigh, Chicken Ball (to be scooped yourself), Fish ball noodles (to be squeezed into the soup, forming strands of noodles), Prawn, Squid, Sausage, Crab Stick
Beef Rib Eye
Vegetables, Eggs and Glass Noodles
Fried Fish Skin, Fried Beancurd Skin
These are to be dipped into the soup for 3 seconds (do not soak) for best texture. The fried fish skin was really good!
This is the beef after grilling. It is marinated in sesame margarine. The same marinade is used for the pork and the chicken.
I like how quality cuts of meat are used here. I liked the pork and beef most. It was very tender. The beef tasted up to my expectations but it was the pork which exceeded my expectations. The pork was very tender and well marinated, tasting somewhat like satay but better. The beef is of good and fresh quality so it can be cooked to preferred doneness. This is important because beef is best eaten medium/ medium rare, and if it wasn’t fresh and must be cooked through, it defeats the purpose of eating beef. Adding $10 for the beef is very worth it.
Pork lard was provided to grease the grill pan. Again, it is a Mookata thing because other Mookata restaurants uses lard too. The benefit of this over the common margarine is that it doesn’t melt too quickly.
Towards the end, the grill got really black but it can be changed for a clean one if required. The good thing is that the soot does not stick onto your meat somehow. Also, the process is generally smokeless.
This makes a good communal meal since Mookata is traditionally meant to be eaten with many diners but realistically speaking, it is not very possible because of different dietary restrictions if your party has such. The soup cannot be split and whatever is grilled goes into the soup so the end product is a mixture of pork, beef and seafood. There are quite many people who have to abstain from at least one of these, so it can be a challenge to have it together. Do take this into consideration before deciding to go, because it is really not possible to isolate the different food groups, unless you get 2 pots.
Overall, the Mookata experience is quite interesting, and I do hope that this becomes more common in Singapore. Currently there are very few places which serve Mookata so you could consider LavaRock if you wish to try. The large set plus extra beef and fish skin is probably only enough for 3 people because I did not leave feeling very full – only satiated.
The total cost of the above would be around $69, which is pretty moderate for Thai BBQ I guess, especially since the meat here is of good quality. (around $17 – $23 per pax, depending on whether you have 3 or 4 sharing). It is a much cheaper alternative to Japanese Yakiniku or Korean BBQ for sure!
Special thanks again to LavaRock for the invite!
Overall: I like the concept of Mookata and would recommend it to Singaporeans!
LavaRock Thai BBQ Steamboat
681 Hougang Ave 8
Guan Soon Cherng Coffeeshop
Tel: 9004 8442
Daily: 5pm – 11pm