January 28, 2007

No, it was more like a beefy Loufah

At about 1 a.m. a month ago, Greg my Russian co-worker declared that we were going out to dinner. Since I'd brought my lunch, as per usual, I was not immediately excited. We talked about it and eventually decided that the best thing to do with our mandatory 60-minute 3 a.m. "lunch" break was to go down to K-Town (Korea Town). I was skeptical. When I think Korean, I think raw meat bucket a la Lost In Translation. Greg and Eric assured me it wasn't like that at all and followed that up by asking me if I liked spicy things. Another negative mark. I explained that I liked spicy things fine enough, but not spicy for the sake of spicy. Kimchi (a spicy Asian cabbage), as I knew it, wasn't just a little spicy. It was melt-your-face spicy, and that wasn't what I wanted at 3 a.m.

They convinced me I wouldn't be sorry, and we ran to Greg's car. Gahm Mi Oak was moderately populated, medium-lighted and full of tasteful Asian decor. Everybody but us was Asian (that's usually a good sign). I had planned on deferring to the other two, since they know Korean, but I ended up choosing a pork pancake. Greg ordered us a meat platter with scallions and a communal-type rice bowl called bibimbap, as well as a bottle of soju (basically Korean vodka, though not as strong - 20% alcohol by volume).

Shortly thereafter, we got a round of complimentary side dishes, including a surprisingly fresh and mild kimchi, long green peppers with mung bean paste, and a watery, gross, cloudy beef broth. Eric raved about the kimchi, and I agreed. The crunch is similar to a watery celery and the spice level between mild and moderate Indian food, with a heavy taste of ginger, garlic and chili. All the same, though, I wouldn't have wanted to eat a whole bowl of it. The green pepper, which I was trying to avoid, was also much milder than I'd expected, but I only ate the bottom part (before the seed area). The mung bean paste was salty and ... munghy.

Oh the meat platter. It landed on the table and I was shocked by the pile of of greyish-white tripe (it has something to do with bovine stomach lining), and Greg joyfully pointed out cow tongue. What is the rest? I asked. He was confused. I clarified, wanting to know what else beside tripe and tongue was on the plate. Just regular beef. That was a relief. I've been enamored with the idea of tripe since I first started getting excited about food. An editor at one of the placed I've worked whose opinion I hold in high regard likened tripe (which he said with a disgusted look) to tasting like wet dog with a cottony mouthfeel. You could just keep chewing forever. Not appealing, but still. I tried the tripe, which was described by Eric as middling, and it was incredibly chewy (more like a loufah than cotton) but the taste was essentially more bovine than canine. I chewed on it for a while and then gagged it down. I only had one piece of it. It tasted like essence of beef. The texture was pretty rough, though.

The tongue wasn't memorable. Tough, I think. Beefy. And the 'regular' beef was forgettable.

The pork pancake was positively delightful; quite similar to a potato pancake with pork and all sorts of vegetables. It was further improved with the addition of kimchi.

And the bibimbap was also great; all of these things were perfect for a first time Korean eater. I'd get the same things if I went back (when I go back).

Finally, the soju. We started off with a shot. Ours was distilled from sweet potatoes, barley, wheat, tapioca, and some other stuff. It tasted slightly sweet with a light vodka mouthfeel. They drank most of the rest. Since it was the middle of the night and we still had 4 hours left, I didn't care to drink any more than that.

And we made it back in one hour and five minutes. Not bad for a meal of that size and scope.

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Special thanks to
Chewy Chua, Lynn in Tokyo, and Quasimondo, respectively, for the pictures.

1 comment:

Joanie said...

I really wish I had been there to see the expression on your face as you saw, then consumed, tripe.