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, 24 May 2008

Utandon Korean Cuisine, Tokyo

It's no secret that I adore Korean food. In Perth, I have a favourite or two places I'd go to for Korean eats. In Japan, Korean food is quite popular and it's one of the very few cuisines readily available in Japan where I can go to satisfy my cravings for spicy food. However, my best experience with Korean food would have to be in New York - the myriad of banchan (complimentary side dishes) was amazing and none like I'd had in Korean restaurants in Perth or Japan.

On our walks to our fortnightly sushi brunch in Tsukiji, we'd walk past Utandon Korean restaurant on Shin-Ohashi-dori. When Kim visited us in March during the spring school holidays, Kim and I went to Utandon for lunch one of the weekdays and we quite liked our orders of Kalbi Bibimbap, although it wasn't spicy enough and we had to add extra gochujang (Korean chilli sauce). A couple of Saturdays ago, the drizzle forced us to cancel our day's plans, so Rob and I headed to Utandon for some Korean lunch. What I liked most about this place is the kitchen, which is in the middle of the dining room, and you can either choose counter seats with a direct kitchen view, or table seats if you are in a bigger group or you just want some privacy. Service is efficient and polite, and I seriously doubt that any of the cooks or waitstaff are Korean - one of the waiter was clearly of Indian or Middle Eastern descent (he spoke excellent Japanese and English). Most of the clientele are Japanese people, which would explain why Kim and I needed to add more chilli sauce to our bibimbap. It's a very casual setting, probably more popular during weekday lunchtime with the working people from nearby offices and businesses.

The kitchen - the chef on the right was quite self-conscious when he spotted me poised with my camera (doesn't help that it's a bulky dSLR), and I had to indicate that he didn't need to pose or smile for the camera:

When seated, we were each given a small plate of pickled vegetables, which I suppose is the banchan. To start with, we ordered a plate of Chijimi (~1400yen), which is basically what I know as Haemulpajeon: Korean seafood omelette/pancake. I got a bit confused over the terminology for Korean omelette/pancake, and some research on the internet indicate that the Korean calls this dish jeon, buchimgae or jijim depending on the region. I can not decide whether it is an omelette or a pancake because sometimes it is very eggy and not very floury, other times it is prepared more like a flour pancake than an omelette. Hence it's why I use "omelette/pancake" to describe the dish. Anyway, at Utandon, it's definitely an omelette with no hint of flour batter in it. It was really good, but then I like anything eggy.

Chijimi aka haemulpajeon aka Korean omelette/pancake:

Rob ordered the Kalbi Bibimbap (~1000yen), which was served piping hot in a clay bowl and had delicious crunchy rice bits stuck to the bottom. We compared this with the bibimbap in Kanazawa (the only other place in Japan where we had the dish), and we both agreed that we preferred the one in Kanazawa. That's not to say that this one was bad - it was pretty yummy. I love that in Japan, a raw egg is served with bibimbap instead of a fried egg like I'm used to having in Perth (the egg gets cooked with the rice in the piping hot bowl). I ordered the Chigae (~900yen), a spicy soup/stew served with steamed rice on the side. It contained pork, tofu, vegetables and sweet potato noodles, and was tasty.

Kalbi Bibimbap and Chigae:


  1. i like eggy too! :)

  2. I eat at least one egg almost everyday, and I wonder if it's healthy! It must be, right, with all the protein in the whites and nutrients in the yolks?