The sushi place is down the street from Myung Dong and across the street from the bookstore where I spent my afternoon as my parents went off to take care of some business at the office. The bookstore was the smallest Barnes and Nobles I have ever had the displeasure to see -_-^ but that is a story for another time. Ok ok, less babbling and more pictures:
My parents and I always get the combinations that come with rice cooked in the stonepot, tofu soup, with one each of galbi and bulgogi and in the past we've tried the shrimp and scallop, which is quite good as well, but not a favorite, so this time we opted to try something new, and my mom and I tried the "fish grilled with seasonings."
But first, banchan! :D
I love their banchan, even if it is a little bit different everytime I go (which is to be expected considering I've only been a few times in the last three years). Today, the cubes of stewed beef are tender and sweet, as if foreshadowing the tender sweetness of the bbq to follow, ending with a very subtle flare of spicyness. The potatoes are also stewed in a sweet sauce until tender and melts so soft it is easily cut with a pair of chopsticks and practically disintegrates on the tongue before it is even chewed. The cold sauteed bean sprouts crunch sweetly and cleanly between the tongue before melting away. Okay, I admit it.. I'm a big wimp and spiciness kicks my ass.. so I am not a huge fan of kimchi.. >_< I'm not sure whether this next appetizer counts as banchan or not.. but it's probably my favorite of all. Korean style pancake? I find it interesting that I like it so much even though I have no idea what it consists of. I can identify the green onion and red bell pepper embedded within, but the texture is so soft and crispy at the same time, I have no idea what kind of flour it's made with. Rice? cornmeal? plain wheat? @_@ The yellow color makes me think there's some egg in it, but it must be thoroughly incorporated into the batter because it doesn't quite taste like eggs either.. I'm mystified but it's delicious nevertheless!
I always ate the default one day, I saw a sign saying that black rice was available; I tried it and since then, that's all I eat. The black rice is slightly sweet, with some peas and a hard bean inside as well as some kind of fruit that I believe are called chinese jujubes or red dates. I have decided that my favorite bites of black rice are those containing morsels of these soft reddish delights. The stickiness of the black rice is perfectly paired with the melting sweetness of the dates.
Next we have non-spicy (>_<) tofu soup. No, despite what it looks like in this picture, it is not murky water in a stone pot. The soup arrives boiling vigorously in which one must immediately crack the egg, and push tofu on top so that the egg will partially cook and take on the texture of a barely firm custard, not dissimilar to that of the tofu itself. The tofu is very soft and silky and by the time it arrives in your mouth, it has absorbed the perfect amount of saltiness and flavor from the soup. The soup itself contains also contains a couple types of mushrooms and some green onions, and in my personal opinion is enough for a small meal (I often take only a few mouthfuls, opting instead to take it home as another delightful meal or snack).
The first protein to be served was the bulgogi. Tender slices of beef marinated in a sweet soy-based sauce (whose recipe is unfortunately unknown to myself or I would make it at least once a week, I love it so) and cooked with mushrooms and onions until the onions become very tender and sweet as it sizzles on the iron pan.
Next, the galbi. The meat is also tender but has a chewier texture than that of the bulgogi and sometimes stubbornly clings to the bone resulting in a deliciously messy fight that I prefer to not have in public. I am always kind of amused by the cow plate that it is served on though... :)
The fish was delicious. It was perfectly salty and crispy on the outside (enough so that the bones were rendered crunchy and edible) and the flesh itself, flaky, juicy and tender enough to melt.
Finally, with the check came a few colourful candies that I fought the urge to photograph. Ok I lost the battle, so.. here it is: my red hardcandy that was so prettily swirled with a subtle white.
For dinner, my mom and I selected a few kinds of sashimi (with a piece each for her and I as my dad doesn't eat seafood of any kind, except seaweed, so he opted instead for a beef teriyaki and shrimp/vegetable tempura combination box) and a shrimp/asparagus cut roll and spider roll. Unfortunately, between talking to/watching the sushi chef, and listening to both parents talking to me and shoving things on my plate (I sat between them at the sushi bar) I ate with wild abandon before remembering to take some pictures.. but it was too late. We were almost done eating but there was still half a spider roll so I took a picture of that. >_<
The sashimi consisted of a hamachi (yellowtail, my mom's favorite), uni (sea urchin "roe" but is actually sea urchin gonads, something I'd heard about and wanted to try), giant clam (I wanted to try scallops but must have pointed wrong because this is what my mom ordered and I decided to try it anyway), amaebi (sweet shrimp, also something new I'd heard about and wanted to try) and my personal favorite: toro (or what I thought was my favorite, except it was way more amazing than I remembered).
The yellowtail didn't look or taste like any other kind of yellowtail that I'd ever had (which is usually kind of plain tasting.. if that makes sense) but this piece was very flavorful but not fishy, and strangely, just like what I thought toro tasted like but it was a different color, somewhat darker than the yellowtail that I'm used to. The sea urchin gonads were very interesting. At first taste, I thought it was tasty, but then (since we had five pieces of it, as five are in each urchin) with each morsel that I ate, the taste got to be too strong and I felt almost compelled to dull it with some julienned cucumber (which is weird considering I don't particularly like cucumber, and sometimes feel that I dislike it). The giant clam turned out to be geo-duck clam which I have long since decided that I don't like. I've had it many times, encountering various degrees of freshness as well as different degrees of cooking and amount of seasoning/flavoring and still there's a very particular flavor to it that I strongly dislike, so after taking a small bite, my mom had to eat the rest. The amaebi was pretty delicious but I've got to admit that I like it much better cooked. Not that I mind, but the texture was not unlike that which a non-sashimi eater might imagine of raw fish and therefore feel disinclined to try it: that soft, kind of slimy, texture with a slight residue that lingers on the tongue (that is quite dissimilar to raw fish). The deep-fried shrimp head was absolutely delicious, though I must admit I spent several seconds gazing at it while trying to figure out how best to attack it ^_~. Toro was simply heavenly. It was so thoroughly marbled with fat that it really melted on the tongue. I thought for sure I'd had toro before, but never anything like that, so maybe not. I did wonder how it was possible for a piece of fish to melt, but now I know!The shrimp/asparagus roll and the spider roll were both decent though I was too full to enjoy it properly. One thing that I distinctly remember is that the spider roll had bigger pieces of soft shell crab inside than most other places I've been too, which is a big plus for this place. All too often, it is so small that it is simply overwhelmed by cucumber and rice (though, I've grown so accustomed to sashimi that anything more than a small dab of rice seems too much and too filling... I like trying lots of different things and all the rice from a cut roll keeps me from eating more than the equivalent of a whole cut roll) . Don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of white rice, especially sticky rice! ^_^ But for some reason I can't eat that much sushi rice (hehe I know it's redundant but ya know..) maybe its the vinegar?
I had a bit of my dad's bento too so I will also comment on that. The rice was perfectly fluffy and sticky and absolutely delicious (I love Japanese rice, anyone know what kind it is? Some say jasmine rice, but I feel like there's all kinds of jasmine rice, and I don't really like the long grained kind..which is usually the kind served in Chinese restaurants. I mean, I'll eat it, but I never get the same enjoyment out of it). The beef teriyaki was slightly over-sauced, but quickly remedied by a deft twist of the wrist (a little scraping! :D) but it was very tender and obviously relatively high-quality beef. The tempura was quite good. The batter was nicely delicate and crunchy (though my mom says it can't compare to anything in Taiwan or Japan, as I apparently will find out later this year, but for the US it's quite good) and slightly seasoned so that it was still good without the dipping sauce, unlike the gummy blandness of some other restaurants.
Overall, an excellent day! :)