Kimmari


At a quaint Korean restaurant we were served with kimmari: chapchae jammed in nori, dipped in flour, deep-fried and served with sesame and soy sauce. The result was crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside. Classic comfort food made out of leftovers. Delicious, and would probably go well with beer the way onion rings do. Then a plate of dongkatsu with pork-and-beans sauce, and omurice with banana ketchup playfully squeezed as topping. Typical banchan: buchujeon and homemade kimchi that's also sold separately, in a fridge with the sign KOREAN BEVERAGES, stacked with bottled juice and, surprisingly, face masks. Much later: sweet and spicy tokpokki served with sliced cheese originally meant for sandwiches.

The fare was mom-and-pop pedestrian, even anti-gourmet. The meals felt like they were fixed and prepped by a harried Korean mother for her kids, like these should have been in someone's lunch box tomorrow. The service, however, was warm and convivial: a kowtow as a sincere apology for a mistake in our order; three slices of cool watermelon offered as an afterthought. The funny thing was that the harried mother who ran the place also had the same watermelon slices at the other table, although hers were lined up in a long plate, all ten to twelve pieces, all the while talking on the phone in Korean, Pepsi within arm's reach, waiting to close shop. By then we knew we would come back, probably to try their signature rice burgers (which I thought were too indulgent) and ice cream in their chest freezer, or just to say hi.