Friday, 31 July 2009


I have a backlog of reviews that need posting before I buzz off for a month’s holiday in September. Some of the places I’ve visited have been rather wearisome and I would like to get them out of the way during the quiet blog-reading period of August. Unfortunately Asadal is one of them.

I’ve decided that I’m not qualified on the cuisine of Korea. I’ve always been perplexed by the lack of integrity or to put it bluntly, the gist of this type of cooking. Perhaps the stalling of any desire to enjoy a Korean meal is down to my South East Asian upbringing. The diversity and complexities of the dishes from places like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are near limitless and for want of a better description, the food always satisfy a majority of people. Whereas the monotony of Korean food, whilst not bland, is enough for me to declare it boring. In order to avoid the risk of being lynched or the worst case scenario of being stalked, I shall not rant further negative comments about the food of the good Korean folks.

The visit to Asadal was down to this guy’s write-up here. Being Korean, his say-so must be worth more than a pinch of salt. Asadal is located by the side of Holborn tube station and its entrance is small and unassuming (blink and you’ll miss it). The basement dining room is large (apparently the largest Korean restaurant in London) and no signs of dankness or a stuffy atmosphere that’s normally associated with subterranean dining were found. For a basement restaurant, it was rather swish and comfortable. I was impressed to find that the restaurant was well patronised by a substantial amount of diners on a Sunday evening (this part of London is generally comatose during the weekends). Asadal touts itself as a Korean barbecue restaurant, every table has its own gas grills built into the centre. The service was competent but not naturally friendly, I’m convinced that it improves immeasurably if we were regulars instead.

I brought along Jin with me, he’s from Harbin in Northeast China. He claims that he enjoys Korean food, but then again he’s Manchu after all. What we ordered-


The barbecued dish of Joo Mool Luk Kui- slices of sirloin marinated in sesame oil and garlic.

What was an otherwise average tasting dish, it was certainly trumped up by the novelty feature of someone cooking the meat in front of you. I’ve said it elsewhere before, the tenner charged for a few slivers of sirloin is perplexing, it simply makes the epic steak dinners at either The Palm or Hawksmoor positively good value for money.
Pa Seng Che- side dish of dressed spring onions that accompanies the above was an extra £1.80! What a rip-off!

Sul Lung Tang- a milky noodle soup concocted with oxtail and beef slices served with a second carb of rice.

Strongly seasoned with loads of white pepper, possibly to even out the strong tasting oxtail. I quite enjoyed this dish but couldn’t help fussing about the size of the small portion.

Once again I must have ordered this countless of times at different Korean restaurants in London, like the Spanish tortilla it’s consistently ho-hum! Jin wanted it. Disappointing yet again. Jin was confident that he could drum up a better one at home. As far as Asian pancakes of this ilk are concerned you can’t beat the Vietnamese bánh xèo (MSG withstanding) for completeness and ultimate elation.

Neng Myun- cold buckwheat noodles in chilled soup.

Like most Asian cuisines, puddings and desserts are not usually part of the equation. The Koreans like the Japanese end their meals, redemption of one’s palate I may suggest, with noodles. The toothpaste manufacturer, Sensodyne, should’ve endorsed this dish. Here Sensodyne 'will relief the pain of sensitive teeth' from this utterly cold cold dish! All five flavours were present in dish and besides being the largest dish of the meal, it was also my highlight of the night.

I may be wrong but this type of food is perfect with alcohol especially beer, since I no longer drink I shall pass on it. For a high end Korean restaurant the bill for two was reasonable. I’m sure that there are a lot of readers who are reading this will no doubt enjoy Asadal and for that matter Korean cooking, as for myself I’d rather stay at home and cook a packet of Korean instant ramen instead; I find that more tantalising.

227 High Holborn
London WC1V 7DA


thisisnaive said...

I'd like to suggest two restaurants before you give up Korean food: Koba for barbecue, bibimbap, namul... and Ran/Arang (same management I believe) for pancake. I'm Southeast Asian too and after eating at these restaurants, I'm hooked on Korean food!

bellaphon said...

Hi Hare, thank you for passing. I've heard about Koba on Dos Hermanos, but I've been to Ran twice before; woefully selective service if you're not Korean. Well stuck! (I'm a fussy sod...)

Anonymous said...

As a Korean I find your comparison of Korean food with South East Asian food is quite hurtful. Maybe it is just that you have not tasted the best of Korean food yet? (After all, I've been to Asadal and have to agree it isn't the best restaurant in London) I have eaten plenty of bad South East Asian food in the UK, but I've never criticised 'the lack of integrity' of it.

bellaphon said...

Anon- I don't usually respond to comments left anonymously, but seeing that you're Korean I apologise for the below the belt descriptions. Yes I do need to re-educated on the cuisine of Korea but unfortunately what I've experienced so far is exactly what I've written...I'm not one to mince words. Take the chungols for example, I personally feel that that the soup stocks I've had in London are alarmingly similar to Nong Shim's Neoguri Udon (55p a packet!). Koba was ok, but you're right I haven't yet tasted the best of your country's food, perhaps you should DM me and enlighten my novice tastebuds instead. Thanks for stopping.

Contact Me said...

You should give Bi bim Bap Soho a try, its round the corner from Asadal

murasaki1230 said...

Try Ran/Ssam on Great Marlborough Street. Amazing kimchi, namul, seafood pancake, skate sashimi, etc. Koba at Rathbone place is also good for bimbimbap. There are lots of inedible Asian restaurants/posers in London so be careful. I've been to Ran recently and their service for non-Koreans (like myself) seemed all right, so maybe give it another shot.

Anonymous said...

Just by looking at your photos already I can tell you didn't have a quality Korean meal. Try going to New Malden and eat at Jee cee neh or Sorabol. Even the simplest dishes are cooked 10 times better than this place. I understand that unless you live in Korea it's difficult to appreciate the variety and depth of Korean cuisine especially in the UK. People in Autralia and America have easier access to quality Korean food. I remember when I tried Vietnamese food for the first time the coriander and the overuse of herbs almost made me puke but now I love it. Same thing with Chinese food, I couldn't stomach all the oil in the food but once I got over the oil I appreciate Chinese food. By the same token don't expect Korean food to be like southeast Asian, Chinese or Japanese food. Just because Korean food isn't reliant on lots of herbs,oils and sugar doesn't make it an inferior to Southeast Asian cuisine.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, 'inferior' not 'an inferior'..also it's very telling you prefer Korean ramen to the real thing, it's the closest thing Korean cuisine comes to se Asian food in terms of spices and msg content. Not the best food for your complexion!