after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Giwa: Homely Korean

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t says: g and I desperately wanted to go to Zavino for some free wine (while they lacked their liquor license, they were offering patrons two free glasses of wine with purchase of food).  Anticipating that everyone else also wanted free wine, we figured that we’d go during the first night of our second “big” snowstorm in Philadelphia.  Dumb idea.  Everyone else figured that, too.  Turned off by the 2 hour wait, we went out looking for a new place to go.  We eventually remembered that there was this small Korean place that we’ve been wanting to try called Giwa.  We trekked on over through the falling snow and got there safely – it was small, but inside it was warm and not precipitating, so we were happy.

2/2009, Friday Dinner, Party of 2.  Giwa’s dishes are not “fancy” or “fusion” Korean dishes – they’re plain ‘ol Korean (with a little bit of polish/pizazz cuz the place is still new).  The selection isn’t huge, and perhaps it’s more geared towards a lunch-ish crowd, however, most people, Korean or not, will find something on the menu.  I recognized quite a few menu items, so g and I were in good shape.

When we first sat down, we were presented with an assortment of tiny little dishes of various items, pickled and not.  This is test #1 for any Korean place – how is the kimchi.  Giwa’s was pretty good.  I ate it.  Theirs had a little more funk than I like, but I’m sure the older crowd (i.e. mom) would like it.

Our first dish was the Haemul Pa Jun appetizer, or, as it was called when I was young, “the Korean pancake”.  That name’s a lie – it’s not a pancake – it’s more like a seafood-pizza-pancake hybrid.  Imagine you take some seafood, mix it in some pancake dough, and fry the dough into a large disc on a frying pan, cut it like a pizza, and then serve it with a soy sauce based dipping sauce.  It was very good.  They didn’t skimp on the seafood and the dough still had good crisp – two common problems with haemul pa jun in restaurants.  Note that this appetizer is definitely large enough for two people – I’d say more like 3 people (we had plenty leftover).

For my main dish, I had the eel dolsot bibimpap, which is not available for take-out – only for eat-in.  The dish comes out in a super-hot bowl.  It has rice, veggies, eel, and a delicious spicy sauce that you mix together as the bowl heats the ingredients and browns the rice, giving it a nice flavor (like when you sear a steak to get the outside nice and caramelized).  It was hot and spicy and had a lot of different textures and flavors – I liked it a lot.  Actually, I would take this dish over every other rice- or noodle-based dish I’ve seen at fancier Asian fusion restaurants (including Morimoto).  In my mind it had the same soul-soothing quality seen in Sampan’s pork banh mi, except for a larger quantity (although it does cost about twice as much).  It’s just so simple and hearty, especially on a cold day.  (n.b. there are a lot of things that those other fancier places do better, however, like having raw fish or desserts).

g went for the kimchi fried rice – it was good, but a little “blah” because it was a lot of rice and super-finely-chopped ingredients, so it was texturally monotonous.  It was more like a dish that everybody would share some as a side rather than one person eat all of.  But, then g stole some of the spicy sauce from my dish, and she felt the fried rice could take center stage.  I guess her dish just needed a flavor that was more dynamic than what it had originally.

In summary, I’d highly recommend Giwa for some not-fancy food.  If you’re afraid of spice, there are still things to eat, like bulgogi and dumplings.  Also, you could just use less spicy sauce in your dolsot bibimbap.  The dishes will come in around the same price as pastas at La Viola, but for me, I’d take dolsot bibimbap over anything at La Viola, so I have a clear personal winner.  And for those who might not have such nostalgia attached to Korean food, I think it’s still inexpensive enough to give it a whirl.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

27 February 2010 at 1:20am

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