Thursday, July 21, 2011

korean tacos at del seoul

the first time i heard about this fusion of korean-mexican food was probably of a popular food truck in los angeles, california called kogi bbq (the first link you find when you google 'korean tacos'). no, i've never tried the tacos by kogi, in case you were wondering. however, i've always wondered how this seemingly odd pairing of cultures would taste and i've found a place where i could try them right here in chicago, del seoul.


it was a beautiful saturday afternoon, perfect for an adventurous lunch. the concept is casual korean street bbq food with a few exceptions of mexican-korean fusion. the decor was simple but what stood out to me was the wall of artsy collage on the other side of the wall. adorned with yellow and red walls, the joint was a comfortable atmosphere where the staff is friendly. the owners recently expanded to the store next door so they can accomodate more customers. basically, to get your food - think corner bakery. you order and pay for your food at the counter, you get a table tent and they will bring food to your table.




i wanted to try what they were famous for: korean tacos. i ordered one of each which they all come with cilantro-onion relish, secret slaw, toasted sesames in two grilled white corn tortillas.

taco: sesame-chili shrimp | hand battered panko shrimp . sesame-chili aioli. ($2.95)


the taco came with two beautifully cooked shrimp that still retained the natural sweetness with a bit of a spicy bite at the end. i love the lil spicy kick of the aioli and it packed a good flavor punch. however, i was looking for that crispy crunchy crust of panko which wasn't there. nonetheless, it was really good, probably my favorite of the four tacos in terms of flavor combination.

 
taco: kalbi | grilled beef short rib ($2.75)


kalbi is one of my favorite korean dishes and i was looking forward to tasting this taco. the short rib was tender and the marinade on the short ribs imparted a good amount of sweetness - i thought it tasted rather authentic like what i would  get at a decent korean restaurant. there was a generous amount of meat and it went well with the crunch of the secret slaw. loved the combination of flavors that went in there. this was probably up there with the shrimp tacos in terms of my favorite.

taco: spicy bbq pork | tangy grilled pork ($2.50)


the pork flavor itself was reminscent of bean paste (gochujang) with a lil sweetness where its flavor profile reminded me of the dae ji bokkeum which is spicy bbq pork. one extra plus was that it didn't taste greasy. the nutty flavor of the sesame seeds on this taco rounded the overall taste in a good way. while the flavors were there which played well with the slaw, i was looking for that spicy kick. the corn tortilla kinda took away from the experience cos of its distinct flavor (i prefer flour tortilla for that reason - a neutral flavor vehicle for all the great topping/filling).


taco: spicy bbq chicken | spicy grilled chicken ($2.50)


the chicken has a similar marinade as the pork and the great thing was the generous portion of chicken was tender and was not overcooked. it tasted great even as leftovers since i couldn't finish the amount of food my friend and i ended up ordering that day.

overall, the tacos were tasty. the secret slaw had a mild flavor which was great because it allowed the meat to shine.  in general, i wouldn't have picked the corn tortilla (only one option) and i ended up eating most of my tacos without the shell. i think the flour tortilla would have better for these tacos.

speciaties: dolsot bibimbap | hot stone bowl bibimbap ($9)


it is basically a korean-style rice bowl with seasonal vegetables, ribeye steak, egg and gochujang sauce. this is probably my friend's go to dish at a korean restaurant. he said that it wasn't as good as the one he tried at crisp (which i would like to try sometime too!) i asked him if i could have a bite and the first taste that hit me was that strong shiitake mushroom flavor that permeated throughout the whole dish and then the sauce kicked in towards the end. i thought the flavors were decent.

specialties: kimchi fries | french fries, topped with sauteed kimchi, onions and pork belly, scallions, melted cheddar and jack, sour cream ($6.95)


kimchi with fries. who would come up with that? this isn't exactly a healthy dish but i wanted to try this to see if the flavors would work. surprisingly, i was confronted by interesting flavor notes which could dangerously and oddly get addicting. i also didn't expect crispy fries since there was sauteed kimchi on top of it but a girl could hope, right? hehe. the pork belly gave it a savoriness and the melted cheese and sour cream added richness which were cut through by the vinegar-y kimchi. think of it as nachos - korean style and with fries instead of tortilla chips. my friend actually preferred this over the bibimbap.

specialties: seoul-style street dumplings (8 pieces) | steamed hand made pork dumplings, 100 year old recipe with sake-soy dipping sauce. ($6)


i had high expectations for this dish since they boasted of the 100 year old recipe. one bite, and i was a tad disappointed. they were alright and i thought it was a bit bland. perhaps i have not tried other korean-style dumplings to compare it to. maybe i made the mistake of comparing it to chinese dumplings which are what i grew up with. the good things were that it tasted homemade and it was served warm which meant they freshly steamed their dumplings before serving. the sake-soy dipping sauce has a nice balance of vinegar and sugar which gave the dumplings the flavor it needed if i doused them in the sauce. a lot of yelpers commented on how great these korean dumplings were but i probably wouldn't go to del seoul for their dumplings.


del seoul is just a few doors away from molly's cupcakes if you want to have a sweet ending to your meal. but molly's cupcake would be another blog entry once i get my hands on more than one cupcake. :) del seoul showcased an interesting mixtures of cultures on a plate and i'd say it's worth trying at least once if you are looking for something different.

disclaimer this is written based on my personal experience and opinion. experiences and taste buds may vary for others

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