I’m Dining Out Here
by Andrew Sprague
Road construction can often lead to exciting and unusual experiences. That may sound silly, but it’s true. For one, road construction can cause even the most level-headed, easy going individual to spew expletives at a rate high enough to shame a drunken fisherman. Very exciting. Also, it can cause what I like to call ‘time expansion delirium’ where time slows to a crawl and fifteen minutes pass in what feels like three and a half hours. Unusual for sure. For me, on one occasion in this the year of asphalt, road construction led to an unusual, delicious meal and a new experience all at once.
The Hillsborough Bridge was in construction gridlock on the afternoon in question. So rather than wait in line like all the other Stratford commuters, Jinny and I decided to stay in town and have a bite to eat. We’d been talking for a while about visiting a new restaurant on University Avenue and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to do so. So we headed to Seoul Food, next to Smooth Cycle, anticipating an unusual and exciting experience. But when we got there, Seoul Food was closed and sign in the window said “Be back at 4:30.” It was 5:00.
We decided to wait it out.
Turns out the owners were stuck in gridlock on the bridge. Imagine. They arrived just before 5:30, but not before I made an obligatory purchase to excuse our loitering at Smooth Cycle.
It was worth the wait and the obligatory purchase.
I’d never had Korean food before, save a couple of mouth-fulls of kimchee at my aunt’s place in Vancouver (kimchee is a spicy dish made from fermented cabbage, kind of like Korean coleslaw). So going in I really had no idea what to order or what my choices would be. For the most part I was right. Many of the dishes on the menu behind the counter were completely foreign to me, like the dolsot bibimbap (rice, vegetables, ground beef and red pepper paste served in a hot stone pot) and the Seoul pajeon (green onion and seafood pancake). Others, like the curried rice were slightly more familiar if not less intimidating.
I decided on the jaeuck (curried pork and rice) and Jinny chose the dolsot bibimbap. We also decided to order a chicken pocket toast, out of pure curiosity. We placed our order at the counter and took a seat by the window to watch the unimpeded traffic cruise by.
That’s when I noticed the ketchup. There was a bottle of ketchup at every table and Jinny and I were at a complete loss as to why. When the owner delivered the pocket toast, I had to ask. He said many Koreans, especially children, love ketchup with certain dishes. He liked it too. I never would have expected ketchup as a condiment at a Korean restaurant, but what did I know.
Anyway, we started with the pocket toast. It looked like a pizza pocket, but inside was chicken, egg and processed cheese. It was okay, but reminded me of an egg mcmuffin. The jaeuck and the bibimbap were next and both were delicious. The bibimbap was interesting to say the least. It was served in a hot stone bowl with an egg on top of the rice, beef and vegetables. It came with instructions that suggested you mix all the ingredients together before you start. As you’re eating, the rice still touching the bowl dehydrates from the heat and makes for a crispy treat at the end of the dish. It was very good. Both dishes were served with kimchee which is definitely an acquired taste, and a bowl of miso soup. Neither of us used ketchup.
I liked Seoul Food and so did Jinny. The service was fast and friendly and the food was tasty and inexpensive. It was unusual, exciting and far more enjoyable than construction gridlock on the Hillsborough Bridge.