This time, our trip to SKR was J's first Korean food experience. The menu is a modest combination of rice, stir-fry, and soup dishes. A friend once made homemade veggie pancakes and we were compelled to try the restaurant's seafood version (hae mool pah juhl) for an appetizer. This huge pancake was loaded with veggies like scallions, zucchini, and carrots and an assortment of seafood. The textural contrast of all the elements was delightful: crisp exterior, soft and moist inside, crunchy veggies, and chewy pieces of octopus. The pancake comes with soy sauce but I enjoyed it the most with bites of kimchi.
Before our appetizers even came out we were treated to a typical spread of small side dishes known as banchan. These side dishes vary and on our recent trip we got a mix of pickled veggies ranging from the classic fermented spicy cabbage known as kimchi and pickled spicy radishes, a potato and onion stir fry, sauteed mushrooms, and wedges of a veggie egg omelet. They were all simple bites to nosh on but the star of the quintet was most definitely the homemade kimchi. Contrary to my own previous prejudices, Korean food isn't all about blow your head off spicy food. This signature Korean condiment is the perfect balance of sour and spicy and the cabbage still had a lovely crisp and crunch to it. Think of kimchi as Korean sauerkraut that pairs well with just about everything. Bonus: you can even get refills of your favorite banchan if you ask nicely. I recommend loading up on more kimchi.