Friday, March 18, 2016

Seoul Kitchen

I like eating Korean food, especially after being introduced to the cuisine's different dishes. Dr Chin, a Korean who used to work at IRRI (post-doc then IRS), introduced me to galbi. These are meat strips that are grilled right on the table. When the  cooked meat strips were served, there were a lot of side dishes that I honestly didn't know how to start eating my dinner! Then there's the epic Sariwon dinner I had with Ate Bing, Ate Mary, and Carina. That's when I got my first encounter with  japchae, a glass noodles dish and how metal chopsticks are not ideal tools to eat these noodles with. Then there's the occasional dinner with officemates at 88 Resort where the restaurant also had those Korean popsicles, aside from the Korean dishes. But the ultimate immersion of all happened in South Korea. That's where I saw the diversity in food and the inroads made by French baguettes and macarons into the dining experience.

So back in the university town of Los Baños, lo and behold! there's a restaurant that even Dr Chin said is serving really good Korean food. If the local says that, I'd have to believe him and troop to the resto straight away. The restaurant, Seoul Kitchen, is in Umali Subdivision and is smack in the middle of college residential life. 

The food, I agree, is really good. I must admit that I am a creature of habit and will return to a resto for a specific dish. In the case of Seoul Kitchen, I always came back for jjampong (without the squid) and ramyun. I also take mandu a lot. But there are times when I would try the kimbap with beef (instead of tuna) or the bulgogi. The serving sizes are quite big; hence, I rarely have room for dessert. But when I do, I normally take the Oreo bingsu. One thing I miss, though, are the flurry of side dishes that I've become accustomed to when eating Korean food outside Los Baños. In other Korean restos, the meal starts off with boiled orange sweet potatoes, pickled eggplants, kimchi, sautéed mushrooms... They compose a meal already! These beat the amuse bouche (which just whets the appetite before the appetiser) in European-themed restos somewhat because the Korean meal starts with an assault (of the positive type) to the palate. Seoul Kitchen doesn't have the side dishes, except for the kimchi. 

What it lack in side dishes, Seoul Kitchen makes up for with the atmosphere. When I first had dinner there, I was greeted with Korean pop songs. MTVs of Korean boy and girl bands flashed on the flat screen. And there were a lot of little knick knacks from Korea that virtually transport one who hasn't been to Korea, to Korea. The servers are very friendly too. After several months of eating there at least once a week, I've become a familiar face. Proof? When I ate there and got curious with the pork dish with shredded cabbage that Kenneth, a staff in Comms, was eating, I asked the waiter to remind me to get the same dish the next time I popped in. True enough, he just confirmed if I was trying that dish out when I returned a week later.

Hence, I find myself looking forward to my weekly dose of Korean cuisine dinner. Seoul Kitchen is a must try. Again and again and again.