Korean venue has moved from Satwa to Barsha 7 Reviews
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It was sad news, but seemingly couched in good fortune, when Koreana closed its doors in Satwa and reopened in Barsha: a more accessible location for me, at least, especially during the evening rush hour. Yet, as it happened, the new restaurant proved to be so hidden away that as we unknowingly overshot the turning and wandered onward, it seemed as though we would have been better off travelling to Satwa’s Plant Street.
Luckily, we found it eventually. Tucked behind Sheikh Zayed Road in a desolate stretch of nothingness and sand, it looked as though Koreana had been forgotten by the rest of the world. Encouraged by my friend’s judgment on the ‘very Korean-looking rubbish bin’ outside (she used to live in Korea) and the Korean-language poster, it seemed that at least Dubai’s Korean community had not deserted the place.
We ventured inside and were greeted by a simple but distinctly Asian-looking venue. It was neatly separated into secluded corners, from the closed-off private dining rooms to tables that were cleverly sectioned off from each other by a maze of dark wooden panelling.
Cosy and intimate as this was, it made the rest of the decor seem disproportionately bleak, and ensured it was difficult to assess how busy the restaurant was. From the sound of voices, the clink of metal chopsticks on plates and a few cheeky attempts to stand up, turn around and peek through the gaps, it was evident that although we had arrived at 6.30pm on a Sunday, the restaurant was filling up with mainly Asian guests.
Luckily, Koreana had figured out a much less privacy-invading way for us to attract attention: the tables were equipped with buzzers to call for service. I admit, the novelty of this was immense.
Generously, the waitress warned us that the hotpot was a meal for two in itself, and steered us to the bibimbap (rice claypot), which was what I had confused it with. The beef bibimbap didn’t, in fact, contain a huge amount of beef, but was infinitely less greasy than other versions I’ve tried, with gooey chunks of egg caught between the rice, and plenty of crisp vegetables. Fortunately, the waitress was less successful in warning us off the yuk hoe (raw marinated beef): it was one of the most exciting food experiences I’ve had in some time.
It was served with huge slices of raw garlic and, authentic as this may have been, it robbed the dish of any other flavour. My friend laughed at the discarded garlic debris on my plate at the end of the meal, but without the garlic, this dish was divine, with the deep red, tender strips of beef, the delicate and crisp sweetness of nashi pear and the freshness and crunch of cucumber.
The topoki (rice cakes in chilli sauce) were a little fiery and an acquired taste: you’ll need to like those Asian-style chewy, glutinous items, which luckily I do. The selection of pickles (bought out free of charge), the modeum joen (a trio of eggy pancakes with different fillings) and the fried mandu dumplings were all as good an example of these Korean classics as I’ve had. The japchae, however, was a completely new experience. These translucent potato noodles were wonderfully textured and intensely flavoured, with chewily squidgy pieces of wood-ear mushroom and crunchy vegetables. My friend provided the final seal of authenticity and approval. ‘I didn’t realise I missed this from Korea, until now,’ she opined.
Inadvertently, I found myself imagining scenarios under which I’d return to Koreana. The private dining rooms would make a great venue for an unusual birthday party – if only the venue had a licence. And K-Pop style karaoke. Perhaps the privacy afforded by the screens would make this an imaginative place to take a date. Or perhaps I can persuade a friend who lives close by to visit regularly after work?
Don’t give up; if, eventually, you can find Koreana, you’ve found a hidden gem in the truest sense.
The bill (for two)
1x Bibimbap Dhs60
1x Japchae Dhs50
1x Mandu dumplings Dhs35
1x Bulgoki Dhs70
1x Modeum joen Dhs60
1x Yuki hoe Dhs60
1x Topoki Dhs30
1x Large water Dhs10
Total (excluding service) Dhs375
Time Out Dubai,
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