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19 August 2012

Korean Take II: Asadal Review

My sister-in-law's sister (wow, that's the first time I've used that expression!) is in town from Canada for the next couple of weeks and we decided to have a little family get-together on Friday night. As the Bro and the SIL met when they were teaching English in Korea, a Korean restaurant was the obvious choice. The only other time I've eaten Korean barbecue was with the Bro and the SIL last year when we went to Myung Ga in Soho, which was quite nice, but having checked out a few other places since then, the Bro decided we should go to Asadal in Holborn, which is a little more up-market.

Family reunion: spot the real sisters!

I felt a little less clueless when it came to the menu this time, but I still decided to let the Bro and the SIL take the lead on ordering. They selected a few different barbecue meats and then a range of side dishes. He also tried to order a couple of starters but the woman who took our order (who we think may have been the owner) told us that wasn't enough food. The Bro tried to explain we were ordering a lot more food but they actually wouldn't let us order the starters--we could have them arriving at the same time as the other food, though. Ooookay. I wanted to ask what the difference between the starters and some of the side dishes was if you couldn't have the starters before your main course, but I wasn't brave enough.

The food was really good. Obviously, we had kimchi (pickled cabbage in a spicy, red chilli sauce) in various forms. My favourite was the kimchi jeon, which probably should be known as kimchi for beginners: it is a fried pancake with little bits of kimchi inside. I was brave, though, and had some of the full-on kimchi too. Although I don't really like soju, the vodka-esque spirit that Koreans drink from shot glasses with their meals, it does help to neutralise the spice of the food somewhat, so I did partake. For our BBQ, we ordered  bul go gi (beef marinated in a yummy mix of soy sauce, onion and garlic) and sam gyup sal kui (slices of belly pork). I really liked the beef but because we were being rushed throughout the meal, the wait staff were too quick to take the pork off our barbecue and throw on the beef, when I would have preferred for the former to be cooked a little longer.

Top: the BBQ. Bottom: the restau (L) and the soju (R)

The rushing was really annoying. It wasn't as though they were super crowded and with all our drinks and sides and "starters," we were spending a lot more than the other diners, who seemed to have gone for the "easy" fried rice dishes. The rushing happened at the other Korean restaurant I went to as well, and it annoyed the Bro then too. He said that Koreans are big on slow food--sitting around the barbecue talking and enjoying the food, rather than hurrying to get through the meal. Inevitably, London Korean restaurants aren't going to be as authentic--and certainly not as cheap--as the ones the Bro and the SIL frequented when they were in Korea, and I suspect I might not have noticed the rushing quite as much if he hadn't been so quick to point it out.

In any case, as I said, I really enjoyed the food and our bill came to £100, which isn't too bad for four people in central London, including beers for the others and soju. We decided to head to Covent Garden to get pudding, though: frozen yoghurt from the abhorrently named Snog, which we ate while watching what may be the most bizarre street performance I've seen in a long while. Good times...

Asadal. 227 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7DA (Tube: Holborn). Website.

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