Saturday, April 17, 2010
Ever since I saw Debbie Lee compete on the America's Next Food Network Star Show, I was really interested in her cooking style that fused both her Korean and Southern background. Unfortunately, I had missed her first stint at BreadBar as a part of their Hatchi series, but I wasn't about to miss her second one. This time, her second appearance was going to serve as an introduction to the type of food she plans to serve at her own restaurant opening later this year. Simply, her concept is all about Seoul Town Tapas, where the food is a take on Korean pub food, but with a modern flair.
Since tapas are fun to share with a good-size group, 9 of my dining club members, joined me one Saturday evening where we shared a total of 17 dishes plus a couple of kimchi dishes in place of bread and butter. Being a kimchi fan, I'd take it over bread and butter anytime. Besides, it's less filling so that over indulging in it means you still have room for your meal.
Both the daikon and the cabbage kimchi were very light in the sense that you get a taste of the chili and also some vinegary-sour flavor notes, but the vegetables still shined through. While I still love my kimchi very heavily fermented to the point that the vegetables take on a deep orange red, this lighter style of kimchi is good starter for the novice kimchi eater.
Although our group ordered all 4 skewers, I actually only tried two of them. First, there was the Bacon Wrapped Rice Cylinders with Jalapeno Ponzu. You can never go wrong with bacon and of all 4 skewers, this one was the absolute favorite of the group. The rice absorbed the smoky saltiness of the bacon and dipping it into the jalapeno ponzu gave it nice little hit of citrus heat.
I also tried the Kimchi Roast Pork and Fuji Apple Skewers. Apples and pork usually pair really well together and in this case, the apple did its job and was crunchy and juicy. However, the roast pork was a little dry and wasn't as flavorful as I would have liked. If you're going to use kimchi as a way to describe an ingredient, you really have to mean it.
As mentioned, I didn't try the other two skewers, but you can take a look at them below. The first is the Grilled Eggplant and Tofu Skewer with Pimento Scallion Glaze and the second is the Salmon and Scallion Skewer with Korean Miso Honey.
Next up was the Sesame Flatbread with Perillo Pesto, Soy Braised Pork and Chile Tomatoes. Other than wishing that the pesto was spread out a little more towards the edges of the flat bread so I could get more of it, I enjoyed this dish. The herbiness of the pesto sauce went nicely with the salt-sweet of the soy sauce braised pork with the tomatoes adding a nice acidity and since I love thin crust pizza, I appreciated the crispiness of the flatbread itself.
Since I enjoy bold flavors, the stir-fried kimchi, pork, rice cakes with a gochujang splash made my taste buds happy. The gochujang is a Korean red pepper paste and it definitely added an extra oomph to this dish, which I truly appreciated.
When it comes to Korean dumplings aka mandu, I've had my share and there's only been two I've liked so far and one of them is Chef Lee's Modern Mandu with Pork Rilette and King Oyster Ju. At first, I wasn't quite sure of the whole oyster ju thing. Pork and oysters? Huh? However, the subtle brininess of the oyster jus actually paired well with this dumpling. In fact, many of us were spooning it into our dumpling as we took bites out of it.
One of my almost favorite dishes of the meal was the Chicken Meatballs with Magnolia Pepper Sauce and let me tell you why. I absolutely loved the crispy texture of the meatball and the sauce it was cooked in was absolutely delicious. Unfortunately, the chicken meat itself seemed under seasoned. Maybe, just a little salt and/or pepper and hand's down, this would have been tops on my list.
Following the chicken meatballs was Mama Lee's Meatloaf made with ground rib eye, soy onion demi and crispy shitake mushrooms. We weren't initially going to order this particular dish, but after Chef Lee came out to tell us about some of the dishes on the menu, her description of this one sounded so scrumptious, we had to have it. I'm so glad I did. That meatloaf was so juicy and flavorful, I almost wish that we ordered another 2 or 3 plates, just so I could have seconds, maybe, even thirds.
Up next was the Shrimp and Scallion Cakes with Ginger Soy Vinegar. To tell you the truth, although I know that liked this dish, I don't remember any specifics about it at the moment; however, if you order it, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Ok, three more dishes before dessert and next to hit our table was the Halibut Jeon Style, Egg Battered with Kimchi Stir Fry and Seoul-Style Chimichurri. I liked the kimchi stir fry and the chimichurri. Unfortunately, the fish itself was a little too dry. Perhaps, it was overcooked? I'm not quite sure. Of everything we had that night, this was my least favorite dish.
Seeing Korean Fried Chicken on the menu, I knew we had to order it. The chicken itself was moist and tender, but the garlic glaze needed to be more garlicky than it was, but that could also just be a personal preference.
Our last savory dish was the Spicy Chilled Buckwheat Noodles, Sashimi Trio, Scallion and Crisp Apples. I really like cold noodle dishes and this version was quite good. I could have easily just eaten the whole bowl by myself if I hadn't already been getting full.
Of course, I'm never too full for dessert and we decided to sample 3 of the desserts on the menu. Although we only ordered 3, all 4 actually came out, but when we had mentioned that we hadn't actually ordered that fourth dessert, they let us have it anyway and took it off our check. Now that's good service. That fourth dessert was a Nutella and Blueberry Sandwich on a Pan di Mie Bread. Usually, nutella could be really sweet, but the addition of the blueberry cut into that sweet and gave the sandwich more of a tartness, which I thought was genius.
Next was the Fuji Apple Egg Rolls with Ginger Mascarpone. I enjoyed the crispy egg roll wrappers and the sweet apples. The ginger mascarpone could have been more gingery, but I still enjoyed slathering it on my egg roll and even just eating small spoonfuls of it.
With bacon being one of my favorite food groups, I absolutely loved the Bacon Coffee Sponge Cake Roll with Coffee Cream and Almond Butterscotch. I liked how the soft, mild sponge cake was the foundation for all the other stronger flavored ingredients around it. I could even seeing myself eating this for breakfast. After all, doesn't bacon, coffee and eggs (albeit in the sponge cake) say breakfast to you? It does to me.
Of our four desserts, my least favorite was the Sesame Buttermilk Beignets with Chocolate Drizzle. When I think of beignets, I'm thinking light and airy and these beignets were too dense for my liking. Even the chocolate syrup didn't add much to it. Maybe, if it was filled with cream, but then I don't know if that's a typical ingredient for beignets.
Overall, while there some minor misses, this meal was one I enjoyed a lot and I'm looking forward to seeing what else Chef Debbie Lee comes up with when she finally does open up her own restaurant.
Seoul Town Tapas with Chef Debbie Lee
717 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles CA, 90048
Seoul Town Tapas Ends May 1st!
Now that you've read and seen pictures of my experience with Debbie Lee's Seoul Town Tapas, now you're chance to win a $50 Gift Card that will give you a chance to check out Debbie Lee's food at Breadbar for yourself. Please note that this gift card will only be good for Seoul Town Tapas and you should only enter if you can make reservations between April 22 and May 1st.
There are multiple ways to enter, so check them all out below.
1. Leave a comment and tell me why you'd like to you'd like to try Chef Debbie Lee's Seoul Town Tapas. (Please leave your email so that I can contact you. Spell it out like abby at pleasurepalate dot com)
2. Follow Debbie Lee on Twitter (if you aren’t already doing so)
3. Follow Breadbar on Twitter (if you aren't already doing so).
4. Fan Breadbar on Facebook (if you aren’t already doing so)
5. Tweet: Win a $50 gift card for @seoultosoul Seoul Town Tapas from @breadbar_la via @pleasurepalate http://bit.ly/95gp06
You can have up to 5 total entries each; however, please note that you have to comment back and let me know which of the actions you took, so that I can keep track of them. This is especially true for 2 through 4. If you don’t let me know which actions you took, then I won’t count them as entries.
Contest ends Wednesday, April 21 at 11:59 AM, PST and a winner will be randomly chosen from all entries. Good Luck!