Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Soft on Seoul.

POPPIN PACKETS:  Seouls Steamed Shumai packs a punch
  • POPPIN' PACKETS: Seoul's Steamed Shumai packs a punch
Like so many others, I have been impatient about the opening of Seoul, the new Korean joint in the Heights. I thought I’d go on a day when everything was just perfect. Well, the power was out at my house and I went in-between rounds of storm, but still… I got to go.
And I got to try some marvelous dishes, such as the pretty (and pretty strong) Steamed Shumai ($6) — though I’m nervous about that now… you’ll just have to read further along to find out why.
I wasn’t planning to go — our power’s out at the house and I’ve been wrangling Hunter all day. But the thought of good, fresh food that wasn’t from a drive-thru was tempting. And my curiosity would be sated.
SEAWEED:  For Hunter, its whats for lunch.
Seoul is, according to the chalkboard up front, undergoing a soft opening. There were just two other people dining when we arrived. As the hubster and I were perusing the menu and talking about all sorts of options, Hunter quite clearly told us, “Momma, may I please have some seaweed?”
How can you turn down a request like that? And the bowl of seaweed our waiter brought us for her ($4) was quite substantial. She hovered over it like a hawk, carefully shoveling up strings with her chopsticks.
The hubster and I went for lunch boxes, just out of a sense of economy (and because I knew I’d be coming back later to try the bibimbap and soft tofu stews). His was a tuna roll box ($8) … and we’re glad to say that the sushi still seems as fresh as it was when it was served at Eastern Flames (the  owners’ previous restaurant, which sadly was closed down so they could start this enterprise).
I went for the beef bulgogi lunch box ($9) and was pleased not just with the amount of beef in my box (easily six ounces) but with the variety of items offered. There was a nice small ginger-horseradish dressed salad of greens, a gyoza, a small spring roll, a handfull of edamame, a big mound of fried rice and… well, frankly, I’m not sure what this stuff was. I’ve never had anything like it. It seemed to be onion slices in appearance, but had the consistency of steamed potatoes and a light sauerkraut flavor. I don’t know for certain what it was, but it was very good. Apparently it was the vegetable dish of the day.
The bulgogi itself I was especially pleased with — melt-in-your-mouth beef sirloin pieces in a hoisin-flavored sauce. It was fantastically good. The edamame was nicely salted.
I also have to brag on the fried rice… as at Eastern Flames, the fried rice should be legendary, very light and full of vegetable and egg pieces, including bits of zucchini and peas. Very tasty.
So, why did the Steamed Shumai make me nervous? It’s described on the menu as “steamed shrimp dumpling with ganging sauce.” We received it right after our lunch boxes. The five little balls looked surprisingly innocuous. I picked up one with my sticks and bit it in half. At first there was a nice pleasant meaty taste, then BAM! Fresh, strong horseradish! My eyes watered. I could barely breathe for a moment. I loved it.
So when I got home I was looking up shumai… and it’s normally a pork dumpling? Oh crud. Yet I feel no aftereffects. So either the shumai at Seoul is all-shrimp or… or, well, I don’t know. I’m glad I didn’t have a reaction, though.
The official full opening will be interesting. I’m very interested in seeing what the full menu will be like. The soft opening menu includes a lot of items I’d like to try, including Baked Green Mussels in creamy sauce, Seafood Pancake and Seafood U-Dong (oysters, green mussels, shrimps and squid with vegetable noodle soup for $15). But I’ve had so many people contact me asking me about the place, I wasn’t going to sit on what I knew.
Seoul is at the corner of University and Kavanaugh in the Heights in the old Satellite CafĂ© location. I know it’s terrible, but in my mental fog I didn’t get the hours. I do know it’s open for lunch and dinner at this point. We’ll see how well it does. (501) 227-7222.

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