Monday, 19 November 2012

Ginseng, Sheffield

Ginseng, recently opened in the West One complex, is Yorkshire's first Korean restaurant (I'd love to be corrected if I'm wrong on this, but I haven't managed to find one up until now). This is a long overdue and rather exciting development, as Korean food is frankly ace.

It's got lots of spice, lots of marinaded meat, the best one-pot rice dish in the world (dolsot bibimbap, which is on the menu here), fantastic sturdy comfort food and lots of pickled vegetables. Kimchi, the ubiquitous Korean fermented cabbagey chilli stuff, is one of my all-time favourite foods. Used as a condiment or a side dish or an appetiser or a beer snack or in whatever way you fancy, it is truly wonderful stuff. Kimchi spam fried rice is a particularly guilty pleasure. I didn't make it up by the way, this is a recognised dish. Google it.

Things got off to a good start at Ginseng with a steady supply of kimchi arriving at the table, along with other banchan (that's the collective word for the little side dishes that form part of any Korean meal) of marinaded beansprouts and pickled daikon. These were free of charge and replaced readily throughout the meal, which is as it should be in a good Korean restaurant.

We chose to eat barbecue as it seemed like a fun option to share between five, but the menu extends to a range of stews, noodle and rice dishes so you could order individually. Before the barbie meats arrived we kicked things off with a kimchi pancake and some pan-fried pork dumplings.

The pancake was a perfect example of the satisfying sturdiness of Korean food. Spicy, salty, beautifully crisp and just a bit greasy. An excellent beer snack. The dumplings were the best I've had in ages, also beautifully crisp with a succulent filling and chewy but pliant casings that reminded me a bit of really good pasta.

Onto the meat. Every table in a Korean barbecue restaurant houses an electric griddle plate for cooking whatever you choose from an extensive list of meat and veg. Not really being experts in this sort of thing we opted for the beef selection and mixed veg selection. Our choice of six varieties of beef included marinaded sirloin and I think topside (bulgogi?), ribeye, boneless rib strips (galbi?), oxtail and some really thinly sliced bits that cooked in seconds.

It was all good stuff, the best for me being the slightly thicker cut rib meat. The marinades were all quite sweet (sugar, soy, sesame oil predominantly at a guess) and gave up just enough juice to flavour the rice alongside a condiment platter of hot chilli bean paste (gochujang, or maybe ssamjang), sesame oil and some red powdery stuff that tasted like tomato cup-a-soup with sesame seeds in it.

I forgot to take a photo of the vegetable platter, so you'll just have to take my word for it that it looked very pretty. It wasn't all so good in the eating though, the obvious candidates for barbecuing with meat soaking up the juices and proving a success (mushrooms, aubergine, courgette) and other things being a bit pointless (sweet and normal potatoes).

We ate rice with our barbecue, but I've since discovered that the way to do it is to order a plate of lettuce and use the leaves to form little wraps (known as ssam) around the meat and sauces. I'll know better next time.

The barbecue could seem a bit gimmicky, but with better menu knowledge than we had you could make it into a very good meal. My tips are go for the beef, add some other meats, remember the lettuce and choose vegetables individually. I'll also definitely be returning to sample some of the non-barbecue dishes.

Service was good throughout our meal, we weren't rushed even though the place was deserted when we left. We did get told off a bit for repeatedly turning our barbecue up too high and causing a smoky nuisance, but we probably deserved that. Sorry guys, it was Friday night and beers were involved.

Including a generous tip we paid £24 each, not bad at all given that we had plenty to drink (a bottle of wine and about seven beers in total). A very welcome addition to the Sheffield restaurant scene.


West One Plaza
Fitzwilliam Street
S1 4JB


James said...

Awesome place and awesome review! I work in the west one complex and went by earlier. Saw this place and walked in. The chap who owns and runs this place was very helpful and knowledgeable.

Ordered Squid in chili bean paste, rice, noodles and a kimchi cake.

HIGHLY recommend it to anyone planning on visiting. New favourite place!!


Dave said...

Thanks James! Squid dish sounds good...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...