When the chilling winter winds of Istanbul blow blustery through the streets, our thoughts turn to the fiery dishes of South Korea and we head to the welcoming lights of Soerabeol. Opened earlier this year by a Korean couple, this is a restaurant that offers few frills but copious amounts of soju (Korean grain liquor) and hearty dishes laced with the emblematic fermented chili paste, gochujiang. This is no watered-down versions of “Asian” cuisine, as is obvious from the clientele of chiefly Korean business people who populate the tables.
Strike the frost from your bones with an order of bracing kimchi chigae. Served sizzling in a stone pot, the stew is a melange of pickled spicy cabbage and smoky tofu, swimming in a meaty, crimson broth. Soak up the heat with hemul-pajeon, a thick pancake punctuated with fragrant chive and bits of seafood, or a proper bibimbap, the rice and vegetable mixture gaining a nice crust from it’s time in a well-heated stone pot. Bulgogi comes in small portions, but the savory curls of sirloin are well worth the price. Same could be said for grilled pork belly, coated in a chili marinade and grilled at the table until the fat becomes crisp as bacon.
As you’re waiting for food to arrive, snack on the plethora of seasonal banchan that arrive complementary at the table. Meant to be eaten alongside a cold beer or that aforementioned soju, the rotating bites could include crisp bean sprouts licked in sesame oil, moreish cubes of pickled radish or quick-poached spinach. They whet the appetite, a harbinger of more good things to come.
- Neighbourhood Gem
- After Work
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