The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Delicious Korean @ Kanton no Omoide, Tokyo

Eager to rid the taste of disappointment from dinner at a certain Singaporean restaurant, we headed to Tokyo's Koreatown in Shin-Okubo the next day in the hopes of having a much better dining experience. We enjoyed the sweet taste of success at a restaurant called Kanton no Omoide - kanton is Korean for an empty can, and omoide is Japanese for memories, so the restaurant's name means "memories that fill an empty can" (or something like that). The restaurant plays on the nostalgia theme, and the interior of the restaurant was filled with images from the 60s and 70s. I'm certain the same theme runs in the restaurant's branches in Shinjuku and one less than 200m down the road from the one we entered. We both adore Korean food, and I can't believe it's taken us this long to go to Koreatown and try the food there. Zak got a lot of attention while we were in K-town, more than usual, rivalled perhaps only by the attention he got during our trip to Okinawa. I suppose babies are not frequently seen in and around Shinjuku which is known for its 'colourful' nightlife (to put it nicely).

It's a popular restaurant and it was packed when we arrived at lunch time. As far as I could tell, the waitstaff were Korean, which was a promising sign that at least the food would be the real deal. We were put in the corner table of the room, which was a good thing because we had a baby with us, but we had a lot of trouble getting the waitstaff's attention. It was only at the end of our meal that we realised there was a little buzzer button on the menu holder on every table - it was so easily missed because it was so small and we mistook it to be part of the decoration. The menu was completely in Korean and Japanese, which was rather overwhelming because of the huge variety of dishes available combined with our relative unfamiliarity with Korean dishes other than the standard Korean dishes of bibimbap and bulgolgi. We wanted to try something different, but had no idea what was good, and in the end I just relied on the photos (Rob was busy with feeding Zak his lunch and left it up to me to make the order).

As soon as we were seated, the banchan (complimentary side dishes) were placed on the table. We were starving so it was good to munch on something while pondering over the menu. Four types of banchan: gobo (burdock root), kongnamul (seasoned beansprouts), cold tofu and kimchi daikon. I've always liked Chapchae (stir-fried cellophane noodles) so I got the half-sized order (850yen) to enjoy as a side dish (normal size is 1260yen). It was delicious with the fragrance of garlic and sesame oil, chewy black fungus and crisp vegetables.

The four banchan; and Chapchae:

I also ordered the half-size serving of Chijimi (seafood pancakes aka pajeon and buchimgae) because that was the only dish Rob expressly requested (700yen for half size, 1575yen for normal size). It was really good - crispy, crunchy and plenty of seafood yet surprisingly not overly greasy. Rob declared it to be the best version of seafood chijimi/haemul pajeon he's ever had (and we've had a few in different countries).

For the main dish, the photo for Possam looked good, and the method of eating it seemed interesting enough. There are two sizes available depending on the number of people sharing the dish - medium size for 1869yen (1-2 people), and large size for 3129yen (3-4 people). To eat, you wrap the meat in a Chinese cabbage leaf with ssamjang (delicious spicy paste) and/or sweet kimchi. Cut green chili and raw garlic are also provided for those who likes them. This dish was simply gorgeous - plenty of umami flavour, wonderful textures, and you eat it however you like it. We had about half the sweet kimchi leftover after we'd finished the meat and cabbage leaf, and we kept picking at it - there were slices of crunchy sweet pear, nira (garlic chives) and pinenuts. Simply yummy.

Glorious seafood Chijimi; and simply delicious Possam:

We were pretty full at this stage, but we just could not resist ordering the Patbingsu (600yen), an ice dessert. We were surprised at how big it was when it arrived at our table, but thankfully (or not?) the dessert consisted mostly of ice shavings underneath all the colourful toppings of fruit, sweet mochi pieces, sweetened azuki beans (which makes up the 'pat' of 'patbingsu'), cornflakes, sprinkles and chocolate syrup. It wasn't too rich or heavy, and was just perfect for the hot summer weather. We amused ourselves by giving Zak a tiny chunk of ice and watching his reaction, which was so funny that I asked Rob to do it again so that I could capture his reaction on camera. Yes, we can be cruel parents sometimes ;)


We really enjoyed our meal, and would love to come back here again to try other dishes on the menu.

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