Wednesday, 7 April 2010
Pre-CNY dinner – Arang, 9 Golden Square London W1F 9HZ
Chinese New Year was about 2 months ago, so a pre-CNY dinner is probably something I should have blogged about 3 weeks ago.
Thing is, I’ve been very busy, and have not had much time to edit any of the pictures I took, let alone blog about them. So, I do apologise for the break, but I’m sure you’ve had actual, real eating to be getting on with while I was away …
Anyway, about 2 months ago, the bf and I were looking for somewhere to have our pre-CNY dinner. Usually, this dinner is eaten at home but as we didn't feel like cooking, we decided to try somewhere new in town instead. This new place we wanted to try (Bodean’s) had an hour-long queue, so we gave up on that and made our way to Arang; a Korean restaurant we’d tried previously once with our friends.
Hey, with a gold menu thicker than most books, how can we go wrong.
First up, after a short wait, we were led downstairs to the basement level sometimes used for karaoke dining (that’s what someone said to us anyway). Plush red sofas, awesome.
We chose the one facing the wall. Anti-social dining is what it’s all about.
A small serving of warm sake (really nice sake) settled us in all nice and hungry, while we spent about half an hour trying to get through that menu.
Choice made, the pickles started arriving. The thing that excites me most about dining out is free food. It’s not like I don’t pay for my food, but I just find complimentary stuff really, really awesome. I mean, it could taste really crap, but if it’s free, hey, it’s good.
These were some of the FREE pickles which tasted fantastic. Radish (perhaps?), some vegetable salad thing, cabbage (kimchi) and beansprouts. All cold, some slightly spicy, all very nice. And free. Actually, we ordered the kimchi so it wasn’t free, but everything else was.
Pickled cabbage which is spicy, slightly sour, and slightly sweet. Kinda like it, but not in vast quantities. Some people I know practically inhale these things, but my tolerance for spicy, sour food ain’t that high.
Pickled diced white radish – free but can also be ordered for £2
How would I describe these. Like little cubes of crunchy, spicy radish. There, that’s a pretty good description. Again, probably not in vast quantities but the portion they gave us was just perfect.
Chap jae £7.50
This is almost like a salad of transparent, yam noodles but is actually stir-fried with beef and vegetables. I absolutely love it, mainly because I like chewy food and you can’t get chewier than transparent noodles (ok so you can but so what), and the taste, oh the taste. It’s nice and sweet and tasty. It has meat. It has chewiness.
How many dishes do you usually order at a Korean restaurant? We clearly haven’t established that bit yet.
Beef bulgogi £7.50
This was awesome. Just awesome. Like bits of fluffy cotton-candy beef strips, all nice and soft and fluffy (OK not fluffy because that would imply mould) and just so tasty. Imagine slightly everything, like slightly salty, slightly sweet, slighty BBQ-ed, and just not enough. It came with a dipping sauce, couldn’t quite make out what sauce it was as it was slightly tea-like, and tasted a little alcoholy? Mirin-based perhaps?
The Bibimbap step-by-step
Bibimbap reminds me of Chinese claypot rice. OK so most things remind me of some Chinese dish or another, but that’s because I know and have had more Chinese food than any other type of food so would of course use that as a benchmark. Anyhow, bibimbap is rice cooked in a stone bowl, with julienned vegetables and bits of mince on top of the rice. An egg (half cooked) is usually added on top, before a spicy gochujang sauce (made from soy bean paste and red pepper) is drizzled on top (in our case, poured).
Bibimbap served, sauce-free but we’re getting there.
Sauce-free it’s not. The red sauce is not as spicy as it looks. It has a sweet taste which tends to make it less spicy.
Work that spoon and stir. Keep stirring.
Ready to be served. Would’ve eaten it straight from the stone bowl, but it was too hot (and we were in a restaurant where sometimes people stare if you eat from pots).
Would I recommend this? We’re gonna try and have dinner there again soon, so definitely yes. If you’ve not had Korean food before, this would be a good place to start.
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