Saturday, March 14, 2009

Wansu, Ebisu

Well, Korean food is not one of my specialties, but this makes two Fridays in a row that EOITwJ has gotten all jiggy with the togarashi. This week's event, organized by Shaft, was much more Korean than Karaya last week, which was a good (but not better) thing. The atmosphere and menu are too different to contrast the places.

I guess I'd say this is more like a Korean restaurant that happens to have some yakiniku. You can tell they're not a specialist because the meat gets cooked on a little 'Jingis' style grill that's brought to the table when you order and is fired by a gas cannister. In fact, we only had one plate of yakiniku, but this wasn't a bad thing, because the other food was excellent (which I say freely with no basis on prior experience). As I keep saying, I know jack about Korean food, and the menu was big, complex, and fully in Korean katakana, so I sat back and let the experts do the ordering.

A number of real standout items are still standing out in my memory today. There was a fried chicken dish - think karaage with a thick crust, smeared all over with kochujan (paste made from chili, beans and soy sauce), a little sweet and 'exploding with bright flavors in the mouth' (if I were the kind of person who would write something like that, which I'm trying like hell not to be). There was also a squid dish, more or less like squid and vegetables in chili sauce, but that does no justice to the redness, complexity and deliciosity of the sauce. The yakiniku we had was a pork kalbi or something; quite passable (but do watch out, if you want lettuce and sesame leaves at this place you have to order them separately. The waitress said the normal thing to do is dip the meat in the provided sesame oil, then eat with some of the sliced negi or other vegetative bits that they provide.) We also had a plate of vegetables with 'rice stick' that was a bit similar in taste to the squid, and that ain't no crime. The menu extends way, way into the ether, with lots of other yakiniku, soups like samugetan, chiges, bibinba, etc. Pardon the transliteration...

The web site makes this look very classy - dark lighting, elegant aspect, recommendation from Korean model...but in fact it's very bright and homey, with young, hip-looking staff. I think the people across from us were Korean as well (though speaking Japanese), which you can take or leave as a good sign. Prices are also pretty darn low, although I bowed to peer pressure and left hungry (it'll be a big enough food weekend without overeating and drinking on Friday night).

I'd go back here if it wasn't almost an hour away from home (about 5 minutes from the entrance to Garden Place, so really a long walk from the Ebisu Hibiya subway station). It also exists in Lumine Shinjuku, if that does anything for you (nothing for me, sorry). I've gotta say, meat, vegetables and copious quantities of chili really give a guy a lotta energy. The Korean diet is very agreeable.

Once more into the breach

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