Trying to get a table at a good Parisian restaurant on a Monday evening is like trying to get an invitation to a big-name designer’s fashion show if you are not Anna Wintour – nearly impossible.
Since I have recently become interested in learning more about Korean food, I was thrilled when my research immediately turned up a new Korean restaurant that has gotten some rave reviews and was actually open on Monday. My hopes were quickly dashed, however – it was already booked up for the evening.
An hour or so later, after much searching on the Internet and calling around, I still had nothing. My last call was to Maison F, a new place already famed for its French fries. When I was told it was closed for a private party, I groaned and complained about the impossibility of finding a restaurant open on Monday. The person on the other end of the line proposed that we join the private party, organized by a group called Ceci n’est pas un Restaurant (I couldn’t find anything about this on the Web), which was sending an outside chef to prepare a three-course meal for €30 a head. It sounded like fun, so I agreed.
When my friend Liz and I arrived, however, the preprandial drinks party was still going on (well past the appointed hour), the music was too loud, and we felt a bit out of place amid the youthful crowd, who all seemed to know each other. We got talking about a Korean restaurant Liz had been to and liked. Going there seemed like a fitting way to close the circle, so we made our apologies and jumped in a cab, but not before we had tasted a couple of gigantic fries that were being served as appetizers. They were a bit greasy but delicious, and served with zesty mayonnaise and tomato sauce. I vowed to return to Maison F on another evening, but I had second thoughts when we looked at the menu outside and saw that one item was a chicken dish for… €84. The other prices seemed normal, however, so I may give it a try, although I certainly won’t order that chicken.
On to JanTchi, the Korean restaurant. We got a table right away and were served throughout the evening by a young man and woman, one as sweet and smiley as the other.
We started with a fine salad of seiche (cuttlefish) in a spicy (but not too) sauce with lots of fresh, crispy vegetables and sesame seeds but perhaps not enough seiche. Along
with it we had some deep-fried ravioli, crispy and grease-free, but not as flavorful as I would have liked.
We moved on to the main courses. Liz had the seafood bibimbap (a Korean rice, vegetable and meat or fish dish) and pronounced it satisfying, generous and fresh, but felt that it
needed a little encouragement from the hot-sauce bottle. I had the beef boulgogi (variously spelled “boulgoki” or “boulkogi” here; it means grilled marinated beef). The meat, cooked with onions, was of good quality and served sizzling hot (not cooked at the table, as it would have been if ordered for two), enlivened by the usual array of banchan (side dishes): cabbage and radish kimchi, spinach, luscious eggplant, nutty mung beans and bean sprouts. My rice was perfect, but Liz wished that hers had been cooked with a little oil at the bottom to give it some crunch.
For dessert, we couldn’t resist trying the green-tea ice cream with red-bean sauce. It was
tastier than it sounds, and we finished it up.
I wouldn’t say that eating at JanTchi was a transcendental experience, but I enjoyed the meal and will go back. I’m looking forward to trying the new restaurant, called Mandoobar, that we couldn’t get into, to compare and contrast and, I hope, move higher up the Korean culinary scale.Favorite