Yesterday I had the pleasure to celebrate my 24th birthday!!!<3 God bless, another year in my life has passed and another one is coming. This year has been quite eventful and I am grateful for everything that happened, both for the good and the bad. I had been really busy the past few months, so I decided to spent my birthday in Athens, Greece with family and close friends. Coincidentally, my good friend Christina whom i mentioned in my previous post (TMI tag) had also returned from Korea. She texted me and i told her that i was here as well, so she decided to take me out for lunch to celebrate my birthday. She insisted that it was about time i tried some Korean delicacies and reassured me that i would have a great time. As a food lover i decided to trust her and try something new for a change!
The place we went is called Dosirak and it is situated in the city center, just a few roads down the parliament building. We arrived there quite early, almost around 12:30 pm. This was my first time trying Korean cuisine and i was a bit nervous, but i trusted Christina cause she is half Greek and half Korean.
The outside of the restaurant was very similar to that of Korean restaurants in Seoul. Next to the door, i could see the pictures of the restaurant’s specials and the names of the dishes right underneath in hangul(hangul:Korean lettering/alphabet). The interior was very pretty and very different in terms of decoration from what i am used to see in Greek restaurants. It was very plain and simple, yet welcoming and friendly.
I especially liked the painting on the wall, which was basically a number of small paintings put all together closely, so that they resembled the pieces of a huge puzzle depicting sea-waves.
We sat at the table by the window, in a quiet corner, and soon a lovely Asian waitress came to our table to take the orders. We ordered Japchae, cabbage kimchi, Sonbudu Jjigae and Danmuji. I had no idea as to what i should order, so i let Christina order Japchae and kimchi for me. She said she was positive i would like them, judging by my food preferences. After the waitress left, my eyes fall on the pairs of chopsticks laying besides my plate. At first i thought that after eating sushi a little too many times, i woud be at least decent in using them….. So, at that moment, i made the decision that i would use them to eat my food….a decision that i would later regret! I guess eating sushi with chopsticks was not much of a practice to master eating “noodles” with chopsticks. You see, to my ignorance, Japchae is a noodles/stir fry plate with pork, mushrooms, carrots and spinach. Not exactly similar to the sushi rolls i used to eat.
After a while, our order arrived and i was amazed by the aromas, the bright colors and the flavors of the food! I absolutely loved Japchae, even though it was my first time trying it! The sweetpotato noodles aka “glass noodles” where so tasty and the texture was chewy and tender. All the ingredients were perfectly combined to make a unique dish! I would certainly eat it again. I also enjoyed the kimchi. Kimchi is basically fermented cabbage with spicy, red pepper flakes and it is a side dish. It was salty, spicy and just a little tangy but so good!
The experience of eating in a Korean restaurant was very pleasant yet very different from eating in a Greek restaurant or tavern in many aspects. The things that stroke me the most where:
- In Korean restaurants people talk really quietly! You don’t get to hear what the people right next to you are actually saying. There are no people laughing loudly or making eccentric gestures with their hands. They are there to eat and that’s pretty much it. At some point, the only thing one could hear was the sound of the chopsticks. It was kinda weird because in Greek culture family and friends gather around the table to talk, make jokes and usually laugh a lot and hard. I wasn’t annoyed that Korean restaurants was the exact opposite…on the contrary i was glad! Sometimes you just want to eat your damn food and not hear anyone’s babbling.
- Korean people have their own etiquette of what is considered “proper eating manners”. Unless you are eating with the spoon and fork they provide you, you have to know how to use your chopsticks correctly. Korean chopsticks are thick on the upper part and get gradually thinner. Sometimes the upper part is wooden and the lower metallic (stainless steel). The right way to hold them is the one shown below:Also, you should not rest your chopsticks in your bowl in a way that they poke your rice or food in general. I don’t really know why but Asian people get really upset by it.
- Korean people usually don’t pay much attention to others unless you are a foreigner…if they realize you have European features and you are in a place like a traditional Korean restaurant, then they will stare like you are a unicorn or something. It doesn’t bother me though, nor do i think it’s annoying or strange.
- Korean people are very polite and helpful. The staff offered probably the best service i’ve ever had in a restaurant.
Overall, i loved the experience and i would definitely eat there again anytime. The cuisine is just exquisite and i really appreciate how people where so respectful of others, keeping their voices on the low and and generally minded their own business..something you don’t find in a Greek restaurant and certainly not in the US where Americans tend to be really loud and vivacious. I suggest you don’t try eating with chopsticks unless you are really good at using them or you’ll end up making a fool out of yourself as i did trying to pinch a noodle unsuccessfully….Lastly, if you are going to a Korean neighborhood or a traditional Korean restaurant, then be prepared to be stared at.
So, this was my experience eating in a Korean restaurant! I am thankful to my Korean friend Christina for taking me there as a gift for my birthday and i hope we get to go there as soon as possible when we are both in Greece again.
Let me know in the comments below if you have ever eaten at a Korean/Japanese/Chinese restaurant and what you think of it. Also, if you are reading this and you are Korean, please let me know what Korean dishes you think i should try the next time.
Till next time, stay precious little diamonds xox!