Thursday, June 16, 2005


The first time I ate Korean food was at Bi-Won last year. I loved the Korean emphasis on pickles and chilli, lightly-steamed vegetables and thin slivers of beef: a perfect blend of Chinese and Japanese foods, but without the cloying sauces of the former and overt simplicity of the latter. So I returned again and again, sometimes for lunch, sometimes for dinner.

But Time Out alerted me last night to another quality Korean restaurant tucked between Oxford Street and Tottenham Court Road on Rathbone Street. Koba is a brand-new barbeque restaurant, opened only a couple of weeks ago by a woman whose family already own several restaurants in South Korea. That's her on page 44 of this week's edition!

She's like the mother hen of a busy brood, tending to her customers with attention and care: serving our food (men first, by cultural habit, she laughed when she realised), cooking our bulgogi (marinated sliced beef sirloin) on the grill embedded in our table, placing them on our plate when they were done, showing us how to dip them in chilli sauce then roll them up in a lettuce leaf with plum sauce and spring onions. She also served us spinach lightly cooked with sesame seeds, kimchi (pickled cabbage), fat, glossy noodles and steaming leaf jasmine tea.

We took our time over the food as the decor was so soothingly minimalist: industrial-style metal pipes extracting the BBQ smoke away from each table and doubling as lights, muted brown wooden bar and tables, white tile flooring, glass ceiling, cream walls.

Can't wait to return.

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