With the popularity of South Korean soap operas and movies it’s hardly surprising faux Korean restaurants have been popping up all over the place. More often than not, however, all the owners have done is added kimchi to the menu and hung a South Korean flag out the front.
Not so with JeJu (濟州鍋品科理), a restaurant named after the island off the southern coast of South Korea famous for its barbeque food. Even though local palates are unaccustomed to ultra-spicy food, Jiao Ling-yu (焦令宇), the owner of JeJu, has made it his mission to retain Korean food’s original flavor. “We have to appeal to local tastes, of course, but there is still a bite in some of the food we serve, and we can always spice things up,” he said.
Shortly after we ordered, an array of small dishes (all free) was brought to our table. These included marinated and pickled veggies such as potatoes, radish in sweet vinegar, and two kinds of kimchi. Next came a very fresh, mildly spicy seafood salad (NT$200) and daboki (NT$200). Daboki is a combination of glutinous chewy rice shaped like big cylinders of pasta with tempura, all simmered in a sauce that had a slight kick. Then came the seafood pancake (NT$200). The outer layer was crispy, and the seafood inside included shrimp and cuttlefish. It was accompanied with a sour rice vinegar dipping sauce.
There is an art to eating Korean barbeque, not least because it is the customer who is responsible for doing all the cooking. Korean barbeque is about meat (NT$600 for two — add NT$300 for each additional person), and lots of it. At JeJu, the pork and beef is thinly sliced and arranged on long rectangular plates.
Accompanying the meat were individual bowls of rice, green chili peppers, slices of raw garlic and soybean paste, and a whicker basket with two kinds of lettuce.
Jiao taught us how to eat it Korean style, which includes taking a piece of cooked meat off the grill and placing it on a lettuce leaf. Then you liberally add the soybean paste, chili peppers, garlic, kimchi, rice and practically anything else within reach. If you are a vegetarian, leave out the meat. Wrap the whole thing up burrito style and pop it in your mouth. Don’t forget to wash it down with a shot of soju, a popular Korean liquor.
For those looking for a place for lunch, JeJu also serves up seafood, kimchi or pork hot pot (NT$150).
Restaurant: JeJu Korea Restaurant (濟州鍋品料理)
Address: 55, Ln 190, Dunhua S Rd Sec 1, Taipei (敦化南路一段190巷55號)
Telephone: (02) 2731-6622
Open: Daily, from 11am to 10pm
Average Meal: NT$150 for hot pot; NT$600 for barbeque
Details: Menu in Chinese (English menu to come soon); no credit cards accepted
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