Before I moved to the Philippines, I really hadn’t eaten Korean food all that much. But Korean food is definitely the most popular international cuisine in the Philippines, with so many Koreans living here and opening businesses or just coming for vacation. (Unfortunately, Koreans have a bad reputation as cheating people in business – like selling bad food products and altering the Sale Date – or being SOBs as tourists, being rude, yelling, littering, and smoking everywhere.) All of that aside, Korean restaurants are plentiful in just about any city in the Philippines, and some areas even have their own Korean Town!

Soban Korean Food Review

Korean food serves another purpose, as it is generally very healthy – far more so than the fried, processed, oily, pork and meat-based, and sugary Filipino diet. Seriously, it’s damn hard to find a healthy meal sometimes here.

Thank God I live in Dumaguete, which is a little bit more environment and health conscious and has a few more restaurant and food choices. But we have our share of Korean restaurants, too, and Soban is probably the best.

The funny thing is that I lived here for three months before I even realized that Soban was only a long walk (or short bike ride) away from my apartment. It’s not super easy to find either, as it’s set back in a dirt parking lot amidst local outdoor food kiosks, cheap drinking stalls, and some loud karaoke music.

But walking into Soban for the first time, I saw that it’s clean, well-organized, the AC is good, and that they take pride in the experience their customers have. I also noticed that the whole front of the restaurant from floor to ceiling – including the front doors – is plastered with colorful neon stickie notes. Upon closer inspection, each of these is a thank you, hello, or well wish from one of the customers, encompassing many languages and people all over the world – good idea!

Sitting down to get to the business of eating, I learned that Soban actually is a small Korean dining table with short legs. Luckily, they have normal sized tables at Soban – and bigger than normal portions. Like any Korean place, they’ll bring you out about half a dozen banchan – small appetizer dishes for free – before the meal. But don’t fill up too much, because the main courses are coming.

Not knowing anything about Korean food, I was appreciative that their menu is well organized with bright and clear photos of each dish, as well as descriptions in English. I went for the Bulgogi – a really good sweet beef dish over veggies and noddles, and a wonderful dish of grilled octopus over rice with the traditional red sauce. Not only were the dishes sizzling hot and super tasty, but they cook many of the dishes right in front of you (not at the table but on a Korean metal bowed pan that’s a grill.) I also WAY over-ordered with a sushi roll, which was big and chock full of veggies. All of this with three beers and the total bill came to only about $20 US, with more than enough food for two people to chow down.

Soban is my new favorite restaurant – Korean or otherwise – in all of Asia!

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Norm Schriever is a blogger, Amazon best-sellling author, cultural mad scientist, and enemy of the comfort zone. His work appears in the Huffington Post,, Good Morning America, The Anderson Cooper Show on CNN, NBC, MSN, Yahoo,, and media all around the world.
Norm grew up in Connecticut and graduated from the University of Connecticut, where he was never accused of overstudying. After expatriating to Costa Rica in 2011, he started traveling the world and documenting what he saw. He now lives in Southeast Asia, writing his heart out and working with local charities.

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