Many years ago when I worked in business-to-business publishing, I led the launch of the technology title, Telecom Asia. It was quite an adventure traveling around the region as publisher, marketing the magazine and writing an occasional piece. It was a great time in my life because I experienced first hand baffling places and unique people that altered me in ways I never imagined possible. My most profound memories, however, are linked to the incredible range of culinary styles I encountered in exotic places like Kula Lumpur, Shanghai, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Tokyo and, especially, Seoul.
Walk down streets in any of these places, and your senses are assaulted by amazing fragrances and the alluring, visual impact of food of all types being sold in noisy streets. Neighborhood joints that my agents shared with me created a foundation in local specialties. It was so tantalizing, I lusted for more. . .everywhere except Seoul.
I visited there in the winter when it was unrelentingly gray and miserable. Students were demonstrating politely in the streets and there was a formidable, heavily armed police presence. The people were uniformly mirthless, especially the stone-faced potential clients with whom I visited. Conversations were tedious because of translations issues, and the results were so dismal, I vowed never to go back on business.
There was one saving grace: the food was spectacular, starting with my introduction to kimchi and extending to the spicy craziness of everything on a plate. Talk about the yin and yang of visiting a country for the first time. . .
And that’s why I am truly excited about Chef Alexander’s choice of focusing on Korea for his next prix-fixe men: “A Stopover in Koreatown”, March 29 to April 3, with the time-tested format of four courses, with choices for $59.95++; reservations recommended by calling 530-823-0320 or going online to www.opentable.com.
I’m meeting with Chef later this week to get specifics on the menu, which will hopefully entice you into joining us. This will be required reading, because otherwise, insight into the menu can easily be lost in translation. Here’s a taste of dishes that are on Chef’s short list:
• Seafood Dolsot Bibimbap (Korean mixed rice served in stone bowl), served with Octopus Bulgogi, Smoked Mussels, Market Vegetables, Farm Egg, Gochujang Sauce.
• Tuna Yuk Hwae (seafood version of Korean beef tartare), served with Pear, Quail Egg, Lotus Root.
• Beef Shortrib Kalbi, served with Black Sesame Puree, Braised Burdock Root, Charred Spring Onion.
• Patbingsu (Korean Ice Cream Sundae, traditionally with shaved ice), served with Condensed Milk Ice Cream, Sweet Adzuki Beans, Coconut, Pineapple.