In our last What’s For Lunch? Wednesday, we visited the Navajo Hogan in a throwback to my time as a missionary in New Mexico. This week, we decided to try the cuisine of Joel’s mission: Korean. The place we chose was E Jo. I don’t know what that means in Korean, and neither does Joel, which makes me wonder if he really knows the language at all.
Actually, it means “Rob is a jerk.” Don’t be jealous that you didn’t get to go to “the land of a thousand smells.” Now, in selecting Korean food, it’s important to strike a balance between “authentic” and “good.” While some of their food makes you jump for joy, other dishes simply make you jump for the nearest exit. So, since neither of us had been to E Jo before, we knew we were in for an adventure.
The restaurant was clean and well-kept, but very cold. And the table was some kind of polished stone, which made things feel even colder. We were brought salad (with really terrible ranch dressing) and miso (which is my favorite kind of soup). And, as you can see in the accompanying photo, our spoons came wrapped hygienically in paper. Think about it: cold, clean, sterile—I think “E Jo” means “hospital”.
After explaining to Rob that those wooden things are chopsticks, rather than complimentary ear cleaners, we perused the menu. They had a number of dishes I enjoy, but in the end I decided to go for the bulgogi, or “fire meat,” which is one of the better known Korean dishes. If you ever find yourself in a Korean restaurant with no idea what to order, go for one of the meat dishes (not counting octopus, which is just kind of chewy and tasteless).
I think that Bulgogi sounds like it ought to be Eastern European, not Korean. And the same goes for my dish: Dolsot Bibimbap. Mine was essentially a fried rice type of dish, served in a sizzling stone bowl. It comes with a raw egg on top, and you mix it all up and it cooks in the bowl. It was accompanied by three sides: some kind of weird seed pod thing that we couldn’t identify, some kind of potato, and the infamous kimchi. I’d never tried kimchi before, but I hadn’t heard raving reviews. It’s fermented spicy cabbage, served cold. Mmm…
I did look up the root thing, and I would like to state for the record that I was right—it is lotus. So there’s a little something exotic for you, although I was a bit disappointed that we didn’t get boiled quail eggs. I can eat those things like popcorn. Anyway, my meal was delicious. And it was presented on an attractive and not-at-all-authentic tray. The woman who served us was courteous and deferential, her only failing being unable to translate “yun-gn” to “lotus” (we heard other patrons asking the same thing about the side dish). In the end, the only irritation was Rob’s complaint that his food didn’t have enough flavor. Next time I’ll convince him to order something so spicy that his eyes will melt out of their sockets.
My rice dish indeed was bland bland bland. I added the red spicy sauce to it, but that only added heat without any kind of flavor at all. I was getting ready to give E Jo a very mediocre rating until I did the unthinkable: I mixed all the kimchi into my dish. The sizzling stone bowl heated it up, and the overpowering flavor of the kimchi balanced perfectly with the tastelessness of my food, and I had a rather excellent meal. So, kimchi make a come-from-behind win!
My final rating is going to be a 3.5ApB. It was tasty, but not fantastic. Had I rated this immediately upon leaving the restaurant, I’d probably have ranked it a little higher—maybe a 3.75ApB—but the kimchi flavor lingered in my mouth for HOURS AND HOURS afterward, and it kind of soured me on the experience.
Having made the return trip in a small car with Rob, I can testify that the kimchi did indeed linger ( I refrained from partaking, having had enough kimchi over the course of two years to last me a lifetime). As for my rating, it’s a solid 75 belt loops. It’s just Americanized enough to be unintimidating for the average novice, but it had a pretty extensive menu. I’ll be going back to sample some of the other Korean dishes I miss.