Coming up with a name for a restaurant is evidently not all that easy. I knew there used to be a restaurant in Sidcup, in Kent, called Sophie's Choice, and blow me down, a little light googling reveals that there still is:
And in LA’s Koreatown there’s a restaurant called Toe Bang.
Apparently it translates as “dirt floor,” which still doesn’t seem all that great a name. In fact the restaurant doesn’t have a dirt floor, but I was told by my companion, Colin Marshall, that the place is very authentic indeed, and that if you’re there at one in the morning it feels exactly like being in Seoul. He should know. That’s where he now is: this was a farewell lunch before he went off, who knows for how long.
Anyway the food was great. A pork knuckle (though next time I think I’ll have the spicy version:
And a seafood pancake:
All this eased down with Hite beer, which I’d never had before but which is again, according to Colin, a very authentic and typical Korean beer, although that may not be an absolute blessing. It tasted quite like Budweiser, which is not altogether surprising since they both use rice as a major ingredient.
Colin tells me that native Koreans complain that their beer isn’t much good, but they don’t like it when non-Koreans point this out. There was apparently an article in the Economist a few years back headlined “Fiery food, boring beer: A dull duopoly crushes microbrewers.”
It said that various Korean business practices involving taxes and import duties, pretty much guarantee that small brewers are priced out of the market. Quite a kerfuffle ensued but the duopoly of Hite-Jinro and Oriental Brewery hasn’t been shaken as far as I can tell.
After lunch, walking along Wilshire Boulevard, I saw that Hite is making inroads into the American market, or at least the LA market. They now sell it at Dodger Stadium. Well, at least the taste won’t distract you from the baseball.
There’s some discussion online discussion about how Hite is pronounced – “height,” “high-tee,” or just plain “hit.” I like the last of these, as in – “when it hits you feel no pain” – although it may take a very long time to hit, and I don’t really think that’s how you pronounce it.
And here’s another tip about naming your restaurant, this one’s in England. Maybe calling yourself Masterchef will raise expectations that you can’t quite live up to, especially if you’re a takeaway in a dodgy part of Sheffield.