Saturday, March 8, 2008
The Art of International Dining in Korea
So, I've told you in the past about the adventures of dining in Korea. Here's another story to add to the list!
A couple of weeks ago we went to eat Italian food at this little bistro called Angelo's. Now, when dealing with any other nationality of food in Korea, you're pretty much taking your chances on what you're actually going to get. Korea is such a homogenous country they really don't have a wide variety of nationalities here, hence, not the best for international fine dining.
My friend Rob had been to this restaurant before so about 6 of us head there. It is a cute little hole in the wall, one room restaurant. The kitchen ran the whole length of the restaurant and there were two people working, a brother and sister. She provides us with menu's that are hand written on construction paper and tied together with yarn. Cute, if Ajenai had made them, not so much for a restaurant. However, I'm still open minded and up for the adventure in Italian cuisine.
There's not much on the menu, but about 3 folks opt for a salmon and pasta dish and I order pasta with chicken. Pretty safe I think, who can mess with rigatoni, linguini, penne, or fusilli, etc? So we order and about 10 minutes go by with us sitting, no water, bread, nothing. Now, all 6 of us are starving. I don't know what it is about Seoul, but we tend to eat something when we wake up (about 12!) and then nothing until dinner, which usually turns out to be about 8pm by the time folks arrive and we decide what to eat, etc. I've told you that the kitchen is right there and we can see them preparing the food as well as they can see, and hear, us. My friend Sha is loudly complaining about how starving she is. The waitress/chef is eyeing us with trepidation to say the least. Finally, some bread arrives at our table. They give us 3 pieces of about 2 inch thick slices of french bread with olive oil and garlic on the top. Sha says, "I guess we're supposed to share?!" Well, we do and the bread is not bad.
Another couple of minutes go buy and the waitress/chef comes back to our table and says, "So sorry, no salmon, all gone." Now, this is a phenomenon I have found unique to Korea. Restaurants typically just run out of food! You order something, and they come back and say, "so sorry, out of meat!" Not just hole in the wall restaurants either but also like Friday's and Outback. One Vietnamese restaurant we went to was closed at 7pm cause they said they ran out of food, everything! Do these people not know how to order supplies?
So of course, all 3 folks who ordered salmon are totally put out. I'm wondering, how did the lady not know there was no salmon when they ordered? The fridge is barely 10 feet from our table. We order, you open the fridge, see no salmon, come back and say, "no salmon". Not wait about 20 minutes!
Anyway, they all order new meals and we're straight. For awhile. But we're still really starving. So my friend Denise finally gets the waitress/chef's attention and says, "can we have more bread?" And the lady says, "more bread?" and Denise says, "yeah, more bread." and the lady says, "Umm, wait, wait." Then she goes back to the kitchen, puts on her coat, and leaves the restaurant!
Denise looks at us and says," she's going to buy some bread." I say, "no, that isn't what's happening. It's gotta be something else." 10 minutes later, the waitress/chef re-enters the restaurant carrying. . . a loaf of bread! Denise looks at me. Ok, ok, I was wrong. Then the waitress/chef brings over the bread. This time, we get no slices of garlic and olive oil on top, just a cut up slab of dry french bread thrown on a plate. Guess the waitress/chef is not that happy with us!
Finally, our food arrives. It's not looking bad and I'm getting excited for my rigatoni, linguini, penne, or fusilli,etc with chicken. Just so we're all on the same page here, when you see on a menu, pasta with chicken, what exactly comes to mind? You expect some form of pasta, (rigatoni, linguini, penne, or fusilli,etc) with sliced or shredded or cut pieces of chicken, hopefully chicken breasts, right? Apparently, not at Angelo's. My plate of dazzlingly red pasta is set in front of me, with chicken drummets strewn throughout the plate! Everybody looks at my plate and starts laughing. "Hey, that's pasta with chicken, right?" Not exactly what I imagined, but hey, it's Korea. And when in Korea, do as the Korean's do. So I ate my Italian spaghetti with chicken drummets without complaint!
Until next time!