The area around Kendals on Deansgate offers a number of decent foody opportunities and I think the Koreana has been there the longest by a good number of years. However, until recently, it’s not been on my radar. It also seems to be under the radar of the main guidebooks. It’s a pleasant enough room, decorated in a vaguely oriental style and staffed by a young pleasant enough crew. There’s a claim on the website that they serve “traditional” Korean food. However, this was our first time eating the cuisine so have nothing to judge against. We can only judge if it enjoyable – and, yes, it was, generally speaking.
A seafood pancake was thickish, slightly chewy, slightly greasy with a few prawns and bits of spring onion. It came with a soy sauce based dipping sauce which worked well. Pork dumplings were fine – a well flavoured pork mix, encased by pastry which had, I think , been steamed and then lightly fried to crisp it. Perhaps it’s a feature of Korean food but, in contrast to similar Cantonese versions, the dough here was significantly thicker and chewier. What is apparently a feature of traditional Korean dining is that food is meant for sharing. So, although orders are taken from individuals, food will arrive when it’s ready – so one starter arrived two or three minutes before the second. And it happened again with the mains.
Bulgogi is possibly the best known of Korean dishes. Even I’d heard of it. Meat is marinated in soy, sesame oil, garlic, a hint of sugar, a hint of chilli. It’s then grilled or pan cooked. I picked pork. It came with lettuce leaves and ssamjang, a thick spicy sauce. You make wraps. It was very good. If I have a criticism, the lettuce hadn’t been properly dried off but at least you knew it had been washed.
The other side of the table had ordered a beef gang jung. Small chunks of beef coated to give a crispy coating when fried. The sauce is a tad sweet and a tad spicy. Worked well with the boiled (and fairly sticky) rice.
We’d also got a side order of mixed salad and vegetables – cucumber, shredded mooli, cabbage, bean sprouts, a fiery kimchee, and equally fiery dish of chunks of mooli and another dish of very thin seaweed (almost like cellophane and, in truth, so was the taste). And two mussels with the oddest preparation I can think of – served in the shell, they were solid and tasted a little sweet – almost as if they’d been candied and perhaps they had. These aside, the dishes were really good additions to the meal which was now hitting all the basic tastes – sweet, sour, hot, salty and umami. Oh, very definitely umami.
It’s rare that, when visiting any Asian restaurant, that we want desserts but this was an exception. There was something about the meal that made us want something sweet and cold. Now I suspect that ginger ice cream and pomegranate syrup sorbet have absolutely nothing to do with traditional Korean cooking. But they were damn good.
Meal, including a couple of beers and a bottle of water, was just over fifty quid,. Really good value. Really good experience.