After reading the glowing reviews from practically every food critic in town my husband and I decided to give it a try last night. We haven't had much time for a nice meal lately, so we were really looking forward to this one. Alas, it was not a fun evening...
We started the evening with high expectations, yet, as the night continued, we kept lowering and lowering our expectations as each course came out (we had about 30-40 min. between courses to lower those expectations...).
First off, it is no longer a BYOB restaurant. The host explained to us when we entered with our bottle of wine that they are working to get their liquor license and that they could not have any alcoholic beverages on the premises. Our only choice for beverages were juices or water, not even a nice tea or anything. The tangerine juice did taste good, at least. So much for our romantic night out over a bottle of wine.
My husband and I generally consider ourselves very patient and willing to forgive many mistakes, but, honestly, the service was atrocious. The servers were aloof and avoided eye contact with us when, after waiting 30 minutes for our first course, we gave them the "what the f*#! is going on?!" stare. We watched as a trio of chatty young women next to us who had ordered right before us received course after course while ours came at a snails pace. We actually timed how long it took between the Mid and the Main: a whopping 40 minutes (with no alcohol to keep us happy!).
Slumped over the table with an empty juice glass I looked toward the kitchen and noticed the servers, the chef and the cooks all in a huddle, looking very stressed. Shortly after that the server brought me another juice and apologized haphazardly and said our meal was coming. No course on the house or anything that any other posters have mentioned. By this point (around 9:30 for a 7:30 res) we were starving! Even after we finally received our mains no one came by to check on us or even refill our waters.
Defeated, we consumed the final "course" of sesame candies and brown rice tea (more on the food in a minute) and watched the waitress very quickly drop the check without a word and scurry off. My husband promptly set out the credit card (our meal had stretched to 3.5 laborious hours by this point) and we waited some more for someone to ring up our check. Finally he just got up and took it to her. At $92 including tip, which granted, is "cheaper" than a meal at Ko, this kind of service is simply not acceptable.
The food: The menu has changed as of about 2 days ago. I'm not sure if this new menu has anything to do with how the kitchen was turning out food, but, unfortunately, there was not one single course that blew either of us away and, in fact, most of it was simply not good. Let me just say that we are not particularly picky people and I'm not one to write soliloquies about subtle flavors. Either it tastes good or it doesn't. Also, we don't know all that much about Korean food, so I can't say I know how each of these dishes should have tasted by traditional Korean standards. I just know that it wasn't good.
Course 1: Stuffed Squash Blossoms- Limp, soggy little specimens. Flavor-wise they were ok, but the sauce was a bit cloyingly sweet.
DH had Beef with Melon Sauce- Dull, flavorless pieces of tartare with a very boring relish.
Course 2: Bo Ssam (Pork Belly with Kim Chi)- The pork belly was dry and flavorless (how is this possible?!) and the "leaves" were nothing more than soggy pieces of cabbage.
Cuttlefish- I can't remember what it was supposed to be stuffed with, but it was bad. As my husband described it "flavorless pieces of nubby rubber." Enough said.
Course 3: Fluke Sashimi with scallions and Arrowroot Noodles- This consisted of a giant portion of very overcooked noodles (it was one big, sticky ball of noodles), a reasonable portion of fresh Fluke, which was pretty good, a lot of scallions and a slightly bitter, licorice-y shredded green. It was a strange dish, actually. It was like simple take-out sesame noodles topped with Sashimi and stuff. The dish didn't come together at all.
DH had Kimchi Stew with Pork Belly- Again, the pork belly was inexplicably flavorless and the broth was lacking depth. The best part of this course and arguably the whole meal was the pickled garlic cloves served with the banchan.
"Course" 4: The palate cleanser "course" was a water and rice porridge for me and a yam gazpacho for my husband. Nothing really to say about this "course."
Dessert was simply a cup of cold brown rice tea and some sesame candies (3 candies for 2 people to share).
This was one of the most disappointing meals I've had in a while. I really wanted to like this place and I feel slightly bad writing a negative review, but this really was unacceptable. Again, $92 doesn't break the bank, but I expect a lot more for that price. I think I'll save up my pennies for our next Ko visit...