A few weeks back we dropped into a little Korean spot, down a ways, for a bibim bab. The restaurant is a little hole-in-the-wall type joint, a handful of hard-bench booths and a row of a half dozen small tables. The shiny, white panel walls are improved to the chair rail by bead-board and hung with a few Asian-like adornments. The atmosphere is controlled by time tinged drop ceiling panels and fluorescent lights; an old tv peaks over the top of a tri-fold screen at the end of the room.
The dining area sits through a doorway from an adjacent Asian market – which should be enough of a pull that we stop in more. However, though it’s been around forever, it’s a rare stop, usually a passing note of interest, one of the “next-times,” like a sandwich at Goodwell’s.
The meal started with buckwheat water soup, which may not be considerably appreciated – it’s interesting, is an accurate and appropriately indeterminate description. The soup’s assorted accompaniments were very much enjoyed: Pickled seaweed, spicy fermented sprouts, of course kimchi and some sort of curd. The bibim bab was good, though there was mockery at the request for more sauce and accusations of improper mixing… The store also sells bibim bap kits, though I’d suspect they don’t contain enough sauce! Fortunately, they sell that too!
Back in the olden times, when we grabbed a bibim bob to-go, with regularity, having a stainless steel bowl with the savory, sorted namul served wouldn’t have brought a second glance, but since the dish was discovered in the dolsot, the memory of those chewy little chunks of sesame-oil-seared, sizzling rice chunks shadowed every bite. Asahi being the only restaurant that is almost within walking distance to begin with, and further, stone serving, it’s unlikely we’ll find our way back unless we need to hit the market, or are otherwise in the area – not on the usual circuit.
But, beyond proximity and chewy, sesame fried rice bits, the food is very good, service is quick and the owners are delightful, if mocking – it was in good fun.
While dining, we made the semi-acquaintance of a regular, who they should hire to extol their food, as she spoke of it quite passionately, recommending various items both on the menu and in the store. Such intrusions when dining are usually found irritating, but in this case it was quite fun – she was just conversational, with anyone that came in as well as the owners, no pretensions, no apprehensions.
We were amused to meet her again, last week, we’all enrolled in a marzipan class. As before, she was engaging, conversing freely with our instructor and everyone else in the class. Again, that’s usually irritating, but she has a mannerism that is so straight forward and unassuming – and engaging. It helped everyone relax and enjoy the class, and there were lots of jokes as we fumbled together our fruits.
Our kimchi-compenera did not miss an opportunity to riff off whispered asides and engage anyone that seemed uncomfortable, bringing them into the conversation and bringing laughs, including the poor woman that was stuck at our table, across from the one strange man in the room.
Between she and the instructors the class was a blast even if most of the fruits were failures – the pumpkin, oranges and pears were the best of the bunch, even if some of the latter approximated more closely a squash.