Tonight S and I went out for Korean food with one of S's friends from work. We all had a great meal and nice chatter and went our separate ways very full and happy. This is the third time I've been to this particular restaurant, but I'd like to describe it from what I remember on our first visit.
Not too far up the road from us begins a quarter of town which I'll refer to as the Eastern section- a high population of Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, and Chinese businesses. S was first introduced to this restaurant by someone else, but took me there as soon as I moved to the area because he had a feeling I'd enjoy it. It's a small place sandwiched in between other buildings with large signs, so we were unsure whether or not we'd passed it until we happened to see the small tiger heralding the entrance. We entered and stood in the doorway for a moment looking around, and being looked at with a healthy dose of curiousity in return. Every other patron appeared to be Korean, so two young people of primarily European descent were an unusual sight. We were soon seated by a very polite lady and handed menus, chopsticks, and large glasses of steaming green tea to peruse and use as we would until we had decided on an order. The menu was primarily in Korean with small blurbs in English regarding the contents of each dish, and we each considered carefully before the hostess came back. S chose what was described as barbequed pork, but when I pointed out my choice to the hostess (Bo Bhim Gee, a mixture of different vegetables, egg, and beef with a spicy sauce) she looked incredibly dismayed. In broken English she asked if I had ever eaten Korean before, and after hearing a no she insisted that I try something more "American", and that I most likely would not care for the other. I took her advice and finally ended up with a dish similar to S, only containing beef instead of pork.
I don't know if this is typical of all Korean restaurants, but when you order a dinner meal at this particular establishment the presentation is both colorful and delicious. First the hostess brings out an array of different vegetables, each in their own small bowls, which are placed in a circle in the middle of the table. (I've since attempted to identify these particular delicacies... There is a spicy cabbage leaf with red peppers, tofu with sesame seeds, broccoli rabe in a salty sauce, boiled potatoes in beef juice, bean sprouts, acorn, and another green leaf I'm unsure of, but which is PARTICULARLY good.) This is then supplemented by bowls of rice. The actual main course then arrives, still sizzling on the platter, and the hostess cuts it right at the table into chopstick-sized bites.
I was only able to eat about half of the beef before my stomach gave up, full to the brim. It was very different from Chinese or Vietnamese food, in that it was much less greasy and appeared to be healthier. Since that first visit I am now happy to report that we are no longer a topic of discussion upon entrance, and tonight I was even able to order my Bo Bhim Gee. Needless to say, it was delicious.