Saturday, May 18, 2013

Jaella-Do

For our second dinner in Seoul, Korea we ate at another traditional restaurant (shoes off and sit on the floor please!) called Jaella-Do. The cuisine here is inspired by the Southeastern part of Korea with lots of seafood and more curious fermented delicacies.

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We were greeted with barley tea - commonly drank throughout Korea instead of plain water - and looked over the menu with a few set course options or a la carte items.  We decided on the "Sujeong" course for 41,800 KRW per person and were explained that this was a special course meal as it featured their delicacy of skate in various forms: fermented raw, steamed, and boiled with spices.  Skates are cartilaginous fish similar to sting rays and have little fleshy meat on, but that meat is comparable to a slightly softer swordfish.

The course was broken out in 4 main parts: various appetizers, meats, side dishes, and dessert.  The appetizers came out first and featured Seaweed Porridge, a common starter to "get the stomach ready" and a Seasonal Salad.  Next came sushi-looking Vegetable Wraps, Sauteed Mushrooms with Sweet Potato Noodles (chap chae), and Parboiled Mixed Seafood with lovely shrimp and octopus mixed with cucumber and topped with a heaping of chopped garlic.  It was presented in a delicate cucumber bowl, which I happily ate.  Next, we ate Pan Fried Vegetables - one was lotus root and the other a mixed "cake' of mushrooms, onions, and carrots.  These were served with a simple soy sauce for dipping.

As a segue, we were presented with the Fermented Skate with Pork and Kimchi.  Keith was much more adventurous than me and eagerly tackled the delicacy.  He was instructed to first layer kimchi, top with skate, then pork, spread some of the shrimp on top, add more kimchi, then top with lettuce and eat all in one bite (see full platter in the pictures below).  He said the skate wasn't that bad, but there was a strong chemical aftertaste that really "bombed" his mouth.  The pork was a bit funky too.  After his second portion he warned me that I probably wouldn't like it as the fermentation was very overpowering. So I decided to sit that course out as much more food was to come.

Soon the various meat dishes arrived.  I tried the spicy Broiled Eel and a small bite of the Steamed Ray.  The eel was tasty and had quite the kick of spice.  While the ray meat was flaky and white, my mind was messing with me and I just couldn't swallow much more.  Keith ate much of the Steamed Beef Ribs with Korean Medicine Sauce that had a different flavor than the kalbi he is used to.  My favorite was the simple plate of Boiled Shrimp and Abalone.  I am not sure I have ever eaten abalone before and I was surprised by how large this sea mollusk is.  The server actually pre-cut the abalone into pieces with scissors at the table for us.  I wish I took of picture of the empty shell as it revealed the pretty opalescent "mother of pearl" design.  Then we were presented with a steaming hot bowl of Oyster Stew served table side.  The broth was light and full of vegetables and a bountiful of oysters.  I think I would have enjoyed it more if I wasn't already pretty full from all the food so far.

As if that wasn't enough, our next course of "side dishes" arrived.  More hot soup in the form of Boiled Kimchi Stew, Spicy Skate that was too cartilaginous for me, and a spread of various pickled vegetables and seafood known as Banchan with a whole Broiled Fish.  Too much food!  We were also running late for a show we had tickets to see, so we rushed through this course, pressed the wonderful buzzer (we really need to implement this is America!), and asked for them to quickly bring dessert and the check.  Dessert was simple hot tea and a mixture of delicate Korean Rice Cake.

All in all, we had an impressive meal at Jaella-Do and it was refreshing to try a different regional cuisine.  Fermented skate ranks at the top of the list as one of the oddest things we've eaten.

Total Rating: 3.8
Food: 4, Price: 4, Service: 3, Ambience: 3, Accessibility: 4

What I ate:
Seaweed Porridge, Seasonal Salad, 
Vegetable Wraps,
Sauteed Mushrooms with Sweet Potato Noodles, Parboiled Mixed Seafood

Pan Fried Vegetables

Broiled Eel, Steamed Ray, 
Steamed Beef Ribs with Korean Medicine Sauce, Boiled Shrimp and Abalone 

Oyster Stew 

Boiled Kimchi Stew, Spicy Skate, 
Banchan with Broiled Fish 

Korean Rice Cake 

Plus Keith ate:
Fermented Skate with Pork and Kimchi

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