Every once in a while you meet a Chef whom you connect with despite the language barrier, or the age difference for that matter. And from explaining his fare rather clinically he goes on to talk about his mother, his aspirations and his craft, that’s when the ice breaks. Add cocktails to that and we talked food for hours. All this happened at the Korean Food Festival featuring Chef Park at Latest Recipe, Le Meridien, Gurgaon.
I suggest you do the same the next time you visit a food festival and there is a Chef de Cuisine present. These days, the younger lot are trained for guest interactions and I feel too few guests use that to enhance their dining experience.
A real Korean experience
The dishes of the festival were a part of the buffet which probably isn’t the best format for Korean food. Think ‘banchan’ or an endless array of side dishes that include fluffy, sweet, savoury omelettes, mini pancakes, variety of kimchi and more. This experience should be personal, the rest can served to the table or self service if one must.
Live counters add to the liveliness
Live counters are the centre of interaction at food festivals. Speak to the chef, express your preferences and be a part of your meal making. At Latest Recipe, the Korean grills had splendid ribs, pork and lamb, and steak cuts with one glaring absence, ‘tenderloin’. Chef was nervous about doing so much lamb but I was happy to inform him that light marinade and imported lamb makes his version an excellent dish.
Do ask Chef Park to make the Bibimbap for you, talk to him while he does and he will explain each step, at times with an anecdote and when it’s down, he will make you hear the sizzle and say “that is the delicious sound that says, we can eat”.
Sushi, Korean style
Korean sushi or Gimbap (they insist you call it that and it’s only fair) is a stodgier version of Japanese sushi. It’s more mealy, larger and in a way more dry but very palatable nonetheless. If you like your sushi stocked and stuffed, then this Gimbap would be right up your alley.
Though it’s probably not fair to compare, it’s a natural reaction to relate a similar dish to the one you’ve had before. The Dimsum is not Chinese as much as the Indian momo we know so well, which is where familiarity comes into play and makes the meal definitely more enjoyable.
A meaty affair
Koreans know their meats and if you’re up for shaking off the ‘festive’ season effectively like me, then this food festival would have been worth a shot. The food was as close to authentic as we can understand and appreciate. As a side note, don’t miss the cocktails, they pair superbly with the grills and the fried, sticky, sweet starters. We called it Korean Pub Grub and went for it with gusto.