OMMA Korean charcoal BBQ, Bukit Timah: First KBBQ with different changeable wood-fire

Omma translates to ‘mother’ in Korean, and the founders of OMMA Korean Charcoal BBQ were probably hoping to evoke some maternal fondness in their dishes.

omma korean charcoal bbq front

What drew me to pay a visit was the unique concept of being able to change your wood chips during the Korean BBQ session; definitely a first in Singapore.

omma korean charcoal bbq woods

As of this writing, two branches of OMMA have rapidly opened up in Singapore; OMMA Korean Charcoal BBQ was founded by the Old Street Bak Kut Teh Group which lent significant financial support for its fast growth, I assume.

The outlet I visited in this particular review was the Bukit Timah branch, located along the stretch of late-night eateries at Cheong Chin Nam Road opposite Beauty World.

The restaurant is decked with wooden panels, giving off a sleek yet homely vibe and a touch of industrialism as exhibited from the copper-plated hanging vents.

What I tried

Starting off with the banchan, we had a medley of kimchi, fish cake, fried anchovies and assorted vegetables. These come free-flow at no charge as per most typical Korean restaurants.

There’s not a huge variety of banchan while personally, I’d prefer the kimchi to be more pungent and acidic. If you’re going to ferment, ferment till you can smell it.

The Steamed Egg (S$12) was seasoned well and as an egg lover, there’s not much to complain about this dish. This Korean egg style, due to the bubbling in the Onggi pot it is cooked in, produces various textures with a burnt under layer which makes it quite different from silky Chinese/Japanese style steamed egg.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the kimchi earlier, so subsequently, Kimchi Soup— Pork (S$18) was a miss for me as well due to stated reason of not having enough fermented savouriness.

Moving on to the highlight of any Korean BBQ— the meats.

We had the Special Beef and Pork OMMA set (S$105), which consists of Iberico pork collar, pork belly, beef ribs, beef striploin, steamed egg and kimchi soup. This set comfortably feeds two to three people. You can also buy these dishes individually.

Pork Belly (S$25 – 180g)

Iberico Pork Collar (S$26 – 180g)

Beef Striploin (S$40 – 180g)

omma korean charcoal bbq ribs

Beef Ribs (S$39 – 180g)

The first wood we started off with was the Hickory wood chips charcoal. Again, the option to change woods is a highlight at OMMA Korean Charcoal BBQ, which I highly recommend exercising.

omma korean charcoal bbq meats

The Hickory wood was pretty neutral and didn’t really have any nuances on the flavours of the meat at all. Each charcoal can last at least one hour, and it costs S$3 to change the charcoal to a different variety of wood chips.

Although I would have loved to go through all the wood chips, this seemed quite wasteful for the number of meats we had. After barbecuing about half the meats, the next wood chip I swapped for was Applewood (S$3). Different woods are suggested for different ingredients, but I find it hard to identify the specific pairings since there’s a variety of meats.

To clarify, not all the charcoal you see below the grill is Applewood; variant wood chips are mixed with regular charcoal to impart its smoky characteristics.

After firing it up, we’ve hit the jackpot.

The Applewood wood chips made a significant difference when barbecuing pork, and to a certain extent on the beef too. The distinct sweet fragrance and the smokiness infused from Applewood were far superior to the Hickory wood and once you savour it during the same session, it’s hard to go back to just plain charcoal. I’m impressed how much of a difference the wood made.

We also tried the Japan A4 Grade Beef Ribeye (S$81) in addition to the set.

Like many of the meats served at OMMA Korean Charcoal BBQ, the A4 wagyu was highly marbled and there’s a lot of fat which ensures the meats are tender and juicy.

There isn’t a particular prominent flavour to the pork and beef served, however, this can be enhanced by choice of charcoal wood. Choose wisely.

Final thoughts

In terms of the availability of wood, there seemed to be some teething logistic issues as not everything listed on the menu was available (there’s five listed woods), while some new wood chips that were available remained elusive until probed. Jarrah wood wasn’t an option during my meal although heavily teased in the menu.

With the deliberate intention of not using gas fire and opting for all-natural wood charcoal, there’s little heavy carbon smoke produced with the goal of leaving the ingredients’ natural flavours unadulterated. This concept is absolutely feasible, but (and this is a big but) also relies heavily on the high quality of ingredients used.

Multiple thumbs up for Applewood chips which really brought out an enjoyable dimension on the barbecued meats.

The menu at OMMA Korean charcoal BBQ is huge, with over 60 menu items. One concept still being experimented on is a soju bomb speed drinking challenge, which might prove to be quite an attraction if marketed well.

I love the idea of being able to change your charcoal wood, really. This can and should be the main selling point for OMMA and hopefully, logistical setbacks can be resolved to bring out its potential experience.

Within walking distance from OMMA Korean Charcoal BBQ, and even along the very same stretch of eateries, there are multiple Korean BBQ competitors— I counted at least five competitors in this area. With a higher price point, it still remains to be seen whether OMMA can cut through the clutter of cheaper buffet adversaries and uniquely position itself as a prominent Korean BBQ restaurant at Bukit Timah.

Expected damage: S$40 per pax

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Price: $ $

Our Rating: 3 / 5

OMMA Korean Charcoal BBQ

20 Cheong Chin Nam Rd, Singapore 599744

Our Rating 3/5

OMMA Korean Charcoal BBQ

20 Cheong Chin Nam Rd, Singapore 599744

Telephone: +65 6513 9553
Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 11.30 pm (Daily)
Telephone: +65 6513 9553

Operating Hours: 11.30 am to 11.30 pm (Daily)
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