Korean

Dotori – Finsbury Park

Despite being very tasty, and in my humble opinion not too ‘exotic’, I’m very surprised people (food bloggers excluded) don’t seem to eat a lot of Korean food in London.  There are far fewer Korean restaurants than, say Thai or Vietnamese.  I really loved Koba when I went there for their lunch special, but I every time I mention it to non foodies, I’m met with blank stares and sometimes fear over Korean cuisine, and that’s a shame.

I have a couple Korean restaurants on my list to try, but Dotori was a spur of the moment decision – one of those ‘I feel like Korean, where’s nearby?’ times. After the boy and I bowled a game at Ten Pin in Finsbury Park on a random rainy Sunday, I decided Korean was the way to go for dinner. Lo and behold, the closest Korean restaurant (well, half Korean, half Japanese) was across the street. Fate.

I had high hopes when I did a quick search for reviews and found that Douglas from Intoxicating Prose really liked it, but a week after my meal, and I’m still not sure how I feel.

The meal started out with an absolutely gorgeous Seafood and Spring Onion pancake.

This is what it’s all about, folks. Crispy/fluffy dough with perfectly fried squid.  The portion was more than generous. Coupled with a side of super funky (read: perfect) kimchi, the meal looked full of promise.

Our bibimbap arrived shortly after, and our server offered to mix the ingredients as soon as the sizzling bowl was set down.  I hesitated, as I generally like bibimbap to sit a little bit for the rice to properly crisp in the hot stone bowl (and also to get a pre-mix picture!), but I didn’t want to be that person, so I kept quiet.

It would have been a mistake anyway, but regardless of a ‘mixing strategy’ the bibimbap didn’t live up to expectations.  First off, there was no egg. Second, the gochuchang was bland and a bit runny – not at all paste-like. And finally, the rice – as well as not being particularly crispy – was off. Odd thing to say because I couldn’t quite put my finger on what was wrong, but, with the runny gochuchang, it was almost like risotto.  The whole thing was a bit of a mess.

Much better was the Barbecue Pork:

This dish served with a lovely ginger paste and lettuce wraps was bursting with flavour. The pork was succulent and very lean, not too oily or greasy. Just right.

When I think about 3 out of the 4 things we had were excellent, but that one strike against the bibimbap, a staple of any Korean menu is something that’s left me feeling a bit cool towards Dotori.

Dotori on Urbanspoon

Koba – Fitzrovia

I love Korean food, and about a month or two ago, I realised it had been way way way too long since I had any. In fact, going over the back catalogue of restaurants in my head, I couldn’t actually remember if I had ever had Korean food in London.  I immediately sought to rectify what was fast becoming a tragedy.

Koba is a small Korean restaurant not too far from where I work. They have a lunch special – something like a main with a side and soup for £6.50. Score.

I opted for an additional starter: the seafood pancake

Koba London Korean

All too often these can end up being way too greasy. This wasn’t without fault, but it was still really tasty. It was more crispy than soggy, which is always better.  There was a lot more seafood on it than I was expecting, and the dipping sauce was perfect in that it didn’t overpower anything. It just gave it a little extra kick.

I had to go with the dolsot bibimbap for my main course. Only problem was I was so eager, I forgot to take a picture till half way through eating.

For those who haven’t had it before, dolsot bibimbap is essentially a dish consisting of rice topped with separated Korean veggies, beef and egg served in a sizzling hot stone bowl. Here’s a picture that’s not mine:

When it’s brought out, you have to let it sit for a little while. Only as the rice begins to crisp in the bowl, do you begin to stir everything around. You’ll often find the beef and egg to be raw on top, so as you stir, the bowl itself cooks the ingredients. Spoon in some gochuchang (a hot red pepper paste) to taste, and you’re all set.

Mine, halfway eaten:

bibimbap London

This was soooo good – especially the gochuchang. I swear, I could have it on almost anything.  My only tiny gripe is that there could have been more kimchi, but I asked for a bit more and they brought it over straightaway. Something tells kimchi isn’t in high demand in the UK…

It’s no secret that my favourite bibimbap was at Pacific Rim in Michigan on their now-defunct lunch menu. However, Koba’s is about the closest I’ve come to finding a replacement. I will be going here again and again.

Koba on Urbanspoon