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It's Not All About the Kimchi - Koba [Restaurant Review]

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Reviwed by the Wild Boar

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For reasons outside my control, I found myself sitting in front of a table with a built in grill with the aroma of kimchi and grilled meat in the air. Admittedly, it was a very nice table, in a nice looking restaurant, with pleasant waiters, but I was actually planning on eating something else. Well, at least the restaurant chosen was one that received fairly good reviews on Urbanspoon.

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We started with medeum kimchi and moduem namool, an assortment of kimchi and seasonal vegetables (funny how all year round we get the same ‘seasonal’ vegetables). I thought the kimchi was decent but I thought the cabbage kimchi lacked sufficient fermenting, although the PigPig preferred it this way with a less sharp taste. Overall not too bad, but it’s a shame how London restaurants charge extra for something which is usually complimentary in Korea (according to my Korean friend anyway).

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The pace of food appearing was very quick and the yook hwei was something I was looking forward to. Essentially slightly frozen beef ribbon sashimi with julienned pears mixed with sesame oil and a raw egg yolk – I can understand that it’ll sound disgusting to some, but the sweetness of the pear together with the aroma of the sesame oil with the beef usually makes for a great combination. At least, it did in Ran anyway, this version didn’t seem to include enough seasonings for my liking and the pears weren’t sweet enough.

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Another one of our staples (we actually always order pretty much the same dishes in every Korean restaurant) is pajun or Korean pancake with spring onions and seafood; the seafood being limited to mainly squid with a couple tiny shrimp. I thought this pancake was pretty good with a nice crunchy base and nice filling that wasn’t floury at all. It also went quite well with the mild sweetened soya seasoning.

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Similarly, the jabchae or stir fried vermicelli with beef was also very flavourful. It seemed dryer compared to Ran’s, but I didn’t think it was necessarily a bad thing as it was still very tasty.

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With the starters out of the way, we’re now moving onto the barbecued meat section. To go with the meat we also ordered sangchoo (fresh lettuce and soy bean paste) and pamoochin (sliced spring onion with chilli and vinegar).

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The BBQ meats:
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  • So hyeosliced ox tongue with salt and pepper – I thought this was a bit chewy, certainly far different to the tongues I had before in Ran or indeed Selfridge’s salt tongue sandwich.
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  • Deungsimsliced sirloin beef – pretty decent standard meat, went very well with either the lightly sweetened soya sauce or the salted sesame oil depending on your preference.
  • Bulgogimarinated sliced sirloin beef – as above, but already seasoned. I felt the marinade was nice, but on the light side for me.
  • Kalbi marinated beef spare ribs – this is one of my favourites, as the marinade meant more flavour and the spare ribs had a slightly chewier texture.
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  • Daeji bulgogi sweet and spicy pork – essentially pork belly marinated with the Korean red paste, sadly not enough marinade was used so it was a bit lacking in taste.
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Instead of plain rice to eat with the meat, we ordered two bowls of yookhwei dolsot bibimbap (steamed rice with raw beef and vegetables in a hot stone bowl; the beef cooks from the heat of the bowl). I thought this was pretty standard but nothing special.

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Overall, the bill came up to £32 each for a party of five. This also included a round of drinks and two Hite beers (really nice and light, similar to Asahi). The PigPig had a ginseng drink which was quite nice with a strong taste of red dates but sadly quite light in ginseng taste.

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While reasonably delicious, unfortunately in a direct comparison the food pales in taste when compared to Ran.

Would I eat here again? Nah, I’ll stick to Ran.

11 Rathbone Street,
Tel: +44(020) 7580 8825

Koba on Urbanspoon

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