Here’s the deal: eight months ago I started a new feature of the blog, What’s For Lunch Wednesday, wherein I and my coworker, Joel, would eat out and then joke about it. It was an extremely popular weekly segment, and it lasted a grand total of three weeks before I got laid off and Joel quit to take a job in a different city. Fortunately for everyone (except Joel), I once again have a job that’s less than a mile from him. So, What’s For Lunch Wednesday is once again on like Donkey Kong (as it were).
The rules, as you’ll no doubt recall, are these: The restaurant has to be a place neither of us has ever been, and it can’t be a chain. My comments are below, in black. Joel’s are indented, in blue.
Joel’s recommendation for today was Gloria’s Little Italy, around the corner from his office, but we got there too early. They open at noon. Mussolini can make the trains run on time, but Gloria can’t open for lunch at 11:45? So, we crossed the street and tried a Korean place. Well, a Corean place: Spicy Corea. (Joel lived in Korea for a few years, and it’s always “Korea this” and “Korea that”.)
Why they spell Korea with a C is a mystery. But Asia is supposed to be all mysterious, right? So we went in and got a table, with my lovely menu that had typesetting problems:
We knew we were in for a treat, as long as our food didn’t appear underneath our plates. I decided to have the bulgogi (“fire meat”) lunch special. Bulgogi is a very popular Korean dish, consisting of thinly sliced beef in a sweet sauce that most chefs won’t give you the ingredients for. (I heard once that the secret ingredient is pear juice; shortly afterward, the informant was found dead. Or drunk or something. I forget which.)
And I had the other lunch special—the one that wasn’t bulgogi.
And then Joel spent a thousand years on the phone with his wife, trying to solve the following problem: There were bees in the bathroom, but the other bathroom was locked from the inside. Ideas were bandied about, and relatives were called, and ultimately nothing was solved and we went back to our meal.
In my defense, most of the bees appeared to be dying and thus presented no real threat. Also, I really liked the food and wanted to eat it rather than driving 40 miles to jimmy open a door. So I suppose that’s the best recommendation I could give for the restaurant: “It’s so good that in order to get it you’ll abandon your loved ones to the mercy of deadly, deadly bees.” And in the end, isn’t that what every restaurant owner dreams of?
While he was on the phone I was looking at the menu and the daily specials, and they boasted a great recipe for Korean-style dried croaker. I mean, we’ve all had regular old American-style dried croaker, but Korean-style? Oh baby.
Also while he was on the phone, our potstickers came and I ate one. Two issues: First, it was hotter than the center of the sun. Second, Korean chopsticks are made of metal and completely smooth and absolutely useless. I consider myself fairly well-versed in chopstickery, but these were slippery and awkward, and I gave up to use the spoon.
Rob didn’t notice, but I asked them to grease his chopsticks. It’s an old trick played by Koreans on unsuspecting Americans.
When our food was brought out to us, I was surprised that we were served by a white college kid. Then again, everybody knows that post-adolescent caucasians make the best authentic Korean food. It’s one of those unwritten rules they never mention on cooking shows.
As you can see in the picture, the rice was kind of purplish grey. Joel said that this is normal (but he’s been known to lie before).
Overall, however, the food was really good. Astute readers will recall that the final episode of What’s For Lunch Wednesday was also Korean food, and I didn’t really love it. But this stuff was much better. Also, I really really want to like kimchi, and I think that I would if it wasn’t served cold. The flavor is strong, but not bad, but it’s gross cold. It makes me sad.
Rob doesn’t know this, but the majority of Korean history has been depressing, and their food is intended to evoke that sadness. That’s why they eat dog; it’s sort of a “We will never forget” kind of thing.
That being said, you can’t go wrong with Korean barbecue. They have some great meat dishes, so long as you make sure there’s no collar in your food. I jest, of course; beef is far less expensive than dog meat.
So… we ate it and it was delicious. And when they brought us the check, instead of bringing mints or fortune cookies they brought a small pack of M&Ms, and an individually-wrapped Twizzlers. Just like in the old country.
If you recall, I rate my restaurants in multiples of Applebee’s quality. I gave the last Korean place 3.75 ApB (or, it’s 3.75 times better than Applebee’s). In retrospect, that was probably too high. But, what’s done is done. I hereby give Spicy Corea 4 ApB.
And my preferred metric is the belt loop, as in how many extra notches I would need if I were to eat my fill. And I’m pleased to rate Spicy Corea 84 belt loops (I had to dock it a point because of that spelling).