Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Seoul, Finchley Road, NW3

Remains of yuke in the bottom right corner - this plate was picked clean before it was taken away
Korean cuisine in London doesn't come close to the widespread reaches enjoyed by Chinese, Thai, Japanese or Indian, possibly because unlike the rest, you can't properly enjoy it as takeaway, because while Kimchi or bibimbap soup might survive reasonably well in transit, the true uniqueness of Korean lies in its hot, freshly barbequed meat dishes. The sheer unfathomed joy of cooking little strips of meat over a barbecue, built into your table, before making a little lettuce wrap with red bean curd paste, salt sauce, rice and then biting into it is something that can't be replicated at home. It's definitely better for meat-lovers. 
Barbecue - each plate of meat waiting to be cooked, £4.00/£4.50 (normally £8.00/£9.50)
I don't have very many pictures of this meal, and they were off my phone, so I'll keep it short and snappy - Seoul is a small, local Korean restaurant in Finchley & Frognal, a two-minute amble from the overground station and not too far from the Jubilee line tube. It's the sister restaurant of a sushi place, and when we went - six of us, on a Saturday night - it was subdued but fairly busy, a brightly lit room with about 20 covers, with quite a few Korean people dining. The meal was outstanding in every sense of the word, and well worth the trip, if you live in North London or are a bus ride away at least. To be fair, we even had someone with us from Peckham who was still glad they came for the journey. This was my second trip here, admittedly it had been two years, but it has remained just as good.
We were with someone who was quite au fait with the whole Korean food experience (I asked her about 10 times what gets dipped in what) who thankfully took over the ordering process. We all agreed that barbecue needed to feature heavily, of course, but we were wondering what to get. Finally enticed by their 50% off offer, and the waiter going "why not just get everything" - that's what we got. Everything on the barbecue menu. Six animals! Vegetarians, look away. Several varieties of marinaded beef, pork, chicken, ox tongue, king prawn, squid, plus some onions, mushrooms, green peppers and garlic. Chucked onto the grill with gusto, cooked by everyone at the table, shared around, eaten piping hot. 10/10 for deliciousness apart from some very bony chunks of steak which we obviously couldn't eat.
We also got yuke, (or yuk hui as it's sometimes written), not for the faint-hearted when it comes to meat, but it sent our table into paroxysms of joy. Cold, raw beef strips, with raw quail egg, sesame oil, pine nuts, and raw pear. You mash it all together, then you eat it as it is. It doesn't sound appealing, but my god, if you're at all daring, you'd want to have a go. We also ordered a swathe of little plates - kimchi, sesame cucumber, pickled bean-sprouts, vinegary shredded radish (my favourite) - which arrived within moments of ordering, around £1.00 to £1.50 on the menu each. The wonderful waiter then told us that these appetisers were on the house, and that we were entitled to as much as we liked. I have no idea if this is standard for this restaurant, or because we were a large group ordering a tonne of food, but either way, it put a big smile on our faces. He also brought us out pickled mooli - kaktoogi - something we didn't order, but he told us that it was a traditional Korean side dish, and all the rest, which was a lovely touch. 
Then, the bill - get ready; for six people, all that food, rice, yuke, plus beers, and a breakaway member of the group who ordered udon noodles and a soup, the bill was £120. £20 or so each! (Without the 50% off all barbecue , it would have been closer to £155 - still a damn good deal.)
By the end of the meal, we were pretty much all dying with being full of amazing food and happiness. It's perfect for group dining, and a total delight - not quite so much for vegetarians though. This is another restaurant that has no website, but do yourself a favour and try some of Seoul's Korean food as soon as you can. Mmm. 

Seoul, 289 Finchley Road, NW3 6ND, 020 7784 9099

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your lovely conment on my blog. I'm a new follower! :-)


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