Wednesday, June 24, 2009

you thought the restaurant reviews were over but they're not

lately rob and i have been doing a lot of asian food. monday night, after building up a healthy appetite walking the entire Seawall, we poked our heads into the Barefoot Kitchen, this wonderful restaurant that brings totally new meaning to the word "asian fusion". first of all, it's run by actual asians, real live japanese people, so it's not just a bunch of trendy hipsters serving what their view of the exotic Orient is with bamboo chopsticks on square plates and too much soya sauce. also, it's beyond asian fusion: it's that awesome yoshoku style, which means that it's all kinds of food with a Japanese perspective. sort of like what my mother might come up with at home, because my sister likes Western food and my dad likes Korean food, so like meatloaf with bean sprouts and kimchi and an anchovy stew, or something.

for example: i had the hamburg steak topped with cheese and teriyaki sauce, with sides of cream corn soup, kimchi, and rice. oh yes, and french fries. rob had the donkatsu (breaded pork chop) with a garlic sauce, miso soup, potato salad, and rice. we also ordered the most delicious sushi rolls we've had in a long time. taken with a Japanese beer that wasn't Asahi or Sapporo, and for me, a cocktail that consisted of Korean liquor + lemon + soda. absolutely delicious. most importantly, pretty damn cheap too, because it's all considered to be fast food.

plus, in terms of non-food elements, the authenticity was made all the more charming by adding the lack of english speaking on the part of the waitresses and the magazine racks of Japanese edition Elle, and also the super cheesy totally Astrud Gilberto tunes making the whole place seem like you're in a Japanese supermarket. totally awesome. makes me want to go to Japan, if they don't hate Koreans.

the next night Rob and i tried out the Noodle Box down the street from my place. i love noodles from any culture, so i thought this place couldn't disappoint me, but sadly it did. it wasn't bad. every dish seemed to have all the elements i wanted (noodles + nuts + tofu + mysterious kooky ingredient), but for some reason it just didn't have that kick. i'm not saying that i didn't love the convenient takeout boxes, and i'm not saying it's because the entire kitchen staff was a bunch of trendy white hipsters that asked me if i was sure that i wanted my sauce spice level to be medium, because like, medium can be pretty spicy (what part of my kimchi devouring face looks like i'm scared of spice??). it was missing that cosy touch at a good Asian restaurant has. my Indonesian noodles was drowned in coconut milk as though there had been a forestfire in my noodles and the firefighters ran out of water to flood it out. it was a tad bit spicy, not too spicy, but not the tasty kind of spicy. also...i'll say it...not a single Asian patron eating in there, except me. what does that say? and $13 for takeout noodles just can't compete with the cheap deal Chinese takeout places next door which have tastier dishes, even if they don't have the funky decorations on the wall or the hip fonts on their signs. but not every Asian place can be a Barefoot Kitchen.

still, the big asian winner is still the H-Mart cafeteria. maybe it's because i'm korean, but there really isn't anything that makes a homesick gal feel like she's back at home than a crowded food court with yummy $5 chajangmyun, surrounded by old korean ladies yelling at each other in the kitchen and awful sappy korean pop music pumping out of the sound system.