I know that it is the general convention that dishes, food, is best tasted at the source. I think that does some disservice to the diaspora and fusion food that has evolved over the millennia. That said, here is a list of food that I often crave. Actually, for many of the dishes, I prefer in their newer form. But, then again… some I prefer at the source.
Ceviche — I like the classic old fashioned version. The Peruvians love fusion. They are a fusion and so is their food. So now one can find “warm ceviche” and ceviche not made with fish.
Danish hotdog — I prefer them in Denmark. The actual hotdog is special, the ketchup is different, the dog is served with crunchy fried onions… New York pizza — also, one of those things. Some say that the New York pizza is like a Neopolitan pizza from Naples, Italy. We shall see… Hamburger — Some of the best I’ve had are in the United States. American beef and lack of gristle in the mix. Banh mi — I’ve had good ones outside of Vietnam. Pho — Also, good in the certain parts of the United States. Very bland in other places. Korean BBQ — If one sticks to the pork belly, then it’s fairly easy to get good Korean barbecue in many countries. I think that many people think that bulgogi should be made with a high grade of beef and grilled at the table. Traditionally, bulgogi was created to use bad cuts of meat that required marinating. Usually the slices are so thin that grilling at the table dries them out. Some places use good cuts of steak and then one can dip them in sesame seed oil and salt. This is a delicious way to eat barbecue. Chicken wings — Oddly, some of the best barbecue wings I’ve had were in a pizzeria in New Mexico. Dim sum — can be good in many places outside China.
Laksa — so far the best I’ve had, and even some of the mediocre, was in Singapore and Malaysia. What can I say?
Most of all, the food of other lands transports you to them.
After the gray skies of Lima, I feel like it’s blue skies here in Rome every day. But, of course, that’s not true. There are rainy days and I’ve had to use my umbrellas for the first time in years (it never rains in Lima). When it’s rainy out, I really like to slurp soup.
One of the delights of Peru was that I never had a bad bowl of soup. It seemed like everyone knew how to make “sopa criolla” or creole soup — basically a chicken noodle soup. The kind your Jewish mother used to make (as David Chang says).
While I like chicken soup, I love spicy Asian soups with spice and treasure trove of ingredients in my bowl. Some of my favorites are hot and sour soup, pho, and laksa. Pho always allows for lots of greens which I love in spicy soup. Laksa is a curry style soup with noodles and seafood, plus tofu cakes, and many other things.
In Singapore, I went to the most famous location for laksa. It was good. One day I went to a mall (it’s a country of malls), and found a “pick your own 100 ingredients” soup place. Heaven! While not on par with the famous place on the number 14 bus, even the laksa at the airport was good.
Here’s to happy virtual traveling and soon, slurping at the source!
Ramen is more than just instant. It’s gourmet too. In the previous year, I went hunting for gourmet ramen in Lima… A Nikkei food festival is happening this weekend in Lima so you could go hunting as well. Below is what I found on my search:
Tokio Ramen: Probably the best in Lima. It’s all by itself over in Jesus Maria. **** update October 19, 2019**** Tokio Ramen has opened a new location in Miraflores: Calle Coronel Inclán 235.
Noruto: Was a reliable go-to place for my Nikkei friend (Nikkei refers to the Japanese restaurants as well as the Japanese-Peruvians).
Kaikan: the ramen was actually better than at Norutu, even though the restaurant is part of the same chain.
Takuenn. Tried sushi. Soup not a thing.
Maido: this is often the best restaurant in South America (according to 50 Best Restaurants) but it is Japanese fusion so they also have ramen. It is served with a large rustic ladle, but I didn’t think much of the soup.
Tzuru: I can’t recall so I think it says it all.
Cosme: When I saw the ramen on the menu, I had to order it. It was not good. I ate the pork belly but that was it. When I didn’t eat it the rest, the staff took the dish off my bill even though I didn’t ask them to.
Korean restaurants: The Korean restaurants have ramen as well. I’m guessing that it is also made from instant noodles. The Koreans make a popular version of instant spicy ramen.
It has taken me over a year, but I finally made it to all the Korean restaurants in Lima (bar the instant ramen noodle place in Arenales Mall and the bingsoo dessert place downtown). Here is my review of the restaurants.
1. Dae Jang Geum, Av San Borja Sur 279, San Borja: The name of this place is named after a female palace chef and style of cooking. This place has been visited by Gaston Acurio. I like the food here including the bbq.
2. Arirang, Calle Las Orquídeas 443, San Isidro: This place is closest to Miraflores and is located in the business district. Also good food including bbq.
3. Han Kook Kwan, Av San Luis 2256, San Borja: This place doesn’t open until 2 pm on Sundays! The lady who owns the place is Korean. The food here is probably more “authentic” from the old days… all I know is that I’m not good at eating raw crab in the shell (see lower left corner in photo below). I’d say to eat here if you want a more homey style of food.
4. Nodaji, Av. Aviación 3257, San Borja: The good thing about this place is that it’s next door to Assi, the Korean store. The food was not anything special but the place was busy and had lots of tour buses parked outside.
5. Coreano Dos Hermanos, Av. Aviación 4812, Santiago de Surco: This is upstairs… the dumplings were Chinese style, had gochuchang inside, and steamed like dim sum. But, the japchae noodles were good.
6. Namu, Centro Comercial Arenales, Cuadra 17, Av. Arenales 1737, Lince: This place is located in the basement of the Arenales Mall. It’s a casual place with K pop playing and teeny boppers singing along…
7. Bingsu, Jirón Callao 161, Cercado de Lima and Av. Gral. Eugenio Garzón 1360, Jesús María. This Korean shaved ice dessert, bingsu, is served in these two locations. The branch in Jesus Maria is newer so still shiny and new. Just down the street from the new place mentioned below.
8. Seoul Chicken, Avenida General Eugenio Garzón, 1474 Jesús María, opened in July 2019, this place serves deep fried chicken, fries, ramen, and mandu (dumplings or as they are called here, “empanadas”). The wings are not the crazy addictive rice-flour-coated wings of BonChon chicken as these taste more like sweet and sour chicken. But, the owner is Korean and they play K-pop videos on the TV.
Yup, I found the best place for Tokyo style ramen in Bogota. The restaurant is located at Carrera 11 and Calle 98, overlooking the little park between 11 and 12. (*** update January 5, 2016 **** Telephone number is 609 09 59. They are open Monday-Saturday from noon to 9:30 p.m. and on Sundays/holidays from noon to 6 p.m.)
They must cater to salarymen because they aren’t open for dinner on Saturdays, nor are they open on Sundays.
I enjoyed the soft tofu appetizer, the kontaksu (fried pork or chicken cutlet, here served on fried noodles as light as air), and the calamari which were soft and tender.
Some people would probably like me to keep this place a secret. Ooops.
Thanks to Paloquemao market, I’m able to find “Asian vegetables” to make Asian food. This includes kimchi.
In Dhaka, I organized Korean cooking lessons and it was possible to buy Korean goods at the Korean mart in Dhaka (and I had my special Korean place in Dhaka to supply me). In Bogota there is no Korean supermarket with ready-to-eat small dishes (other than Maki Roll restaurant which has a few items for sale). Also, I haven’t found my kimchi source (Casa de Coreana‘s is the best in Bogota, in my opinion), so I decided that I would have to make it myself.
The recipe is easy to find on the Internet (Maangchi is one of favorite) and I used her easy recipe involving fish sauce. I made it and it was delicious!
To continue my Korean restaurant collection, I have now eaten at all the Korean restaurants in Bogota. Previously, there were more Korean restaurants in Bogota and on many of the online sites, the addresses are not updated (Degusta, Bogota Brilliance, etc.). As of January 2015, in Bogota, there are seven Korean restaurants and one Japanese one where they will serve you Korean food. Here they are according to my opinion of their food.
Arirang (Carrera 14, 106A-86. Closed on Sundays. The sign for the restaurant is tiny. The restaurant is cream-colored house set back from the road. There may be a rooftop area as well.), 12/13: It’s a clean and neat looking restaurant. The food is fairly authentic. The spicy pork belly was flavorful and delicious, and probably the spiciest food I’ve had here other than at the Taiwanese restaurant (generally, people in Bogota are of the “if it’s spicy, I can’t taste it” school of eaters. There is no black pepper on the table ever). The beef lightly marinated in soy sauce (not bulgogi) was a high quality cut of meat and tasty. I asked for the “salsa con sal” and they brought the traditional sesame oil dipping sauce. The kimchi is sour (so, good if you like sour), the banchan includes a red pepper leek dish which I liked. And one of the days, one of the panchan was an egg battered hotdog — and who doesn’t love meat in a tube! The mandu were thin-skinned, meaty, and pan fried. There are lots of stews on the menu and kalbi (beef rib). No haemul pajeon (seafood pancake). The fish stew was fishy. I found all the flavors a little different than I expected but it could be the kind of oil she uses. The restaurant has been in existence for 18 years and the owner said that there are about 4,000 Koreans in Bogota. Oh, and at the table which had two gas burners (thumbs up for the decor and logistics), there is a bell on the table to call for service, and one gets a pitcher of that pale amber warm barley corn tea that I like so much. The owner and the waitress were friendly. This is a place one could bring business colleagues.
Motomachi, Carrera 13A, No. 96-65 (this is a Japanese restaurant) 12/13: This restaurant is two years old. The interior design is my favorite. Wood paneled ceilings and view of an Asian garden. The owner is Korean and she doesn’t speak Spanish so if you want Korean food, you have to speak Korean or Japanese (The tables are Korean style with a gas burner sunken into the center — but the first I was here, I couldn’t make myself understood. The nice waitress didn’t understand that I wanted Korean food — it’s not on the menu — only kimchi is listed as a “cold appetizer”). The chef is a long-time Bogota resident and he is Japanese (but he stays back in the kitchen. The sushi chef is a Colombian). The Japanese sushi was some of the best I’ve had in Bogota. The Korean food is good but it is what I would call Japanese-Korean fusion. It’s light and elegant. No fiery red bowls or raw garlic. The mandu/potstickers/empanadas de japon etc. are good. The bulgogi was more like a shabu shabu filet cooked as bulgogi, and the owner seems to try to recommend that everyone eat this meat as its good. Kind of funny to me. She doesn’t serve a lot of “panchan” or small dishes as so many Korean-food-fans rave about, but what she serves are well done. The kimchi is good but not spicy. The small fried fish were great and the spiced dried burdock root also good. I’ve been there three times so far and each time, the second small plate is different. The japchae (stir fried rice noodles) is good (there are always those that order this just as I always order the seafood pancake). The “haemul pajeon” or seafood pancake is different each time but still good. The first time I had it, it was made more like a Japanese dish and the second time, it was smaller and less doughy. The first time I went there, I had Japanese food and didn’t find the tonkatsu edible but the sushi was fine. I shall be back many more times. This restaurant is hard to find due to all the one-way roads surrounding it so it’s best to walk. It’s located near a small pedestrian street.
Casa de Corea – original location (Calle 104A, 11B-61. M-F 12-13 & 6-10. Weekends 12-10.) 11/13: Supposedly, according to themselves, theirs is the best kimchi. I’d agree. The bulgogi is also good, marinated for a minute right before being brought to the table. The seafood soup was mild and warming on a cold night. They brought a ladle and small bowls for sharing. The dumplings, mandu, are also good but are deep fried like an empanada. The Colombian cook has been cooking Korean for 30 years and she is on point. The service is also friendly. Now, I am annoyed that this place is not located in my apartment building. If it was, I’d eat there every day. Prices were average at about 20 U.S. dollars per person. This place is too “dumpy” to take business guests.
Casa de Corea – Previously Deum Jang, affiliated with Casa de Coreana at the old location (Carrera 14B, No. 106-18. M-F 12-13 & 6-10. Weekends 12-10.) 11/13: Supposedly, according to themselves, theirs is the best kimchi. I’d agree. New location is also on a residential street. Inside is nicer and more modern than the original location. There’s a fire pit and a TV on the wall. Cozier. The food is the same as at the other location. This location is fine for taking guests.
Biwon (Carrera 7D, #108A-33. Tel: 215-4773. Closed on Sundays. Also hard to find. It’s in a house on a twisty residential street, and comically, across from it is posted a sign which says, “no businesses allowed.”) 10/13: The bulgogi is actually the best here. Instead of being shaved flakes of stringy meat like most places, here, the strips are like I’d make at home. The meat used is tender and actually has some flavor. The bulgogi is served with lettuce for lettuce wraps. The kimchi was also slightly sour and not a deep red color. The haemul pajeon was thick and soggy. I didn’t find the staff all that friendly. Also, fine for business meals.
Asiari (Cra 18B, No. 108 – 05. Closed on Sundays. Asian fusion. It is really hard to find this street. When going west on 109, look for the red Banco sign on the left corner. Turn left on that street.), 9/13: This place made decent Korean food. It appears to be run by two Korean ladies. The restaurant has various kinds of seating, from the cafe outdoors, the cafe indoors, upstairs private rooms, the shuttered back room, and so on. Plus, the bathrooms have quirky art and fancy faucets. The chicken wings were okay but the sushi roll was terrible. I enjoyed it more than I expected to. They have Korean tea and serve it in a large teapot which I appreciated. When I asked to pay, I was told that they lady in the back had already paid for me. Some strange things are nice.
Maki Roll (Carrera 11, No. 95-01. All days, 12-11.) 6/13: This place also sells some Korean items including the red pepper paste (kochugang) that is distinctly Korean. The meals include a starter of cold marinated chicken wings and small pancake (pajeon). The banchan were inedible. The bulgogi, while a good sized portion, was too chewy. The staff are friendly. This place is a cafe so very casual or, as I noticed, hip enough (all white decor) to attract dating couples out for a nosh.
Senor Kim, Calle 78, No. 12-09 (old address is Calle 39, #18-34. Was also called Mini Nyam Nyam, I think), 3/13: Well, hola Senor Kim! When out exploring, we stumbled across the sixth Korean restaurant in Bogota. They moved in the summer of 2014… so only their Facebook page has the correct address. This is a small caf’ style place. Although this is a new location, it’s dark and cramped which makes it feel a touch old school. Located on a through street between Carrera 11 and Carrera 13. I really wanted to like this place because the young couple who own it are so cute. I think that their best dish is their bowl of rice with stuff = bibimbap. The kimchi was not bad but it was more like a cabbage with red sauce.
That concludes my Korean restaurant search in Bogota. I may have to start cooking at home as delivery (domicilio) doesn’t seem like such a good idea with Korean food.
“Hey, do you have a recommendation for a Korean restaurant?” Do I ever! In the service of social media=democracy=sharing information… here’s my list of Korean restaurants I like to go to when in Northern Virginia. I also mentioned Korean food in my list of iconic American eats in the Washington, DC area. All these restaurants are located in Annandale in Fairfax county about ten miles from the Lincoln Memorial. There are buses out to this area but that experience would probably ruin your experience.
Lighthouse Tofu (Vit Goel Tofu) – 4121 Chatelain Rd #100, Annandale, VA 22003: More than tofu, this place specializes in volcanically hot earthenware bowls of stew/soup. This place actually has seafood stew which I love. Plus, they have created a mini seafood pancake which is more like an American appetizer. Most places serve a huge seafood pancake (haemul pajeon) which can be harder to deal with.
Honey Pig – 7220 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA 22003: Very loud music, steel decor and smoky, this place will make you feel like you are in Korea.
To Sok Jip – 7211 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA 22003: Across the street from Honey Pig, easy to overlook, this place with the purple awning, is worth finding. It’s got three “rice” options – white, barley, or purple which is a mix of brown rice and beans. This is one of the few hole-in-the-wall places left in this area. The bok choy kimchi is fantastic. They also have a mega-pot “wartime soup” which is a hodgepodge of hot dogs, tofu, pork, kimchi, noodles, etc. thrown into a cauldron. Must not eat alone. Plus, the ladies’ has a fancy Japanese toilet.
Gom Ba Woo – 7133 Columbia Pike, Annandale, VA 22003: This place is next to Giant. I mention it because I’ve had some really delicious home made mandu (dumplings, potstickers) here, and I’ve had wonderful language barrier issues here too, one of which resulted in us receiving a cold bowl of noodles in a lard soup. The lady looked at us approvingly because clearly this was the dish to order in hot weather, but we were not so thrilled.
Nak Won – 7317 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, VA 22003: This place is where I’d take newbies to Korean food. It’s got a nice authentic feel and it’s quiet. The decor reminds me of the decor of the 80’s with wood tables and memorabilia on the walls.
Oegadgib – 7331 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, VA 22003: This place should be called “Mr. Lee’s” but instead I think it is “Gram’s place” or something like that. There is a full menu but the two things that stand out are the all-you-can-eat shabu-shabu (where you cook meat and vegetables in a broth – like hotpot) and the barbecue which includes three kinds of meat. The prices are under $20 per person so a great place to go with big eaters. This place is hard to find and hard to pronounce so look for the Jerry’s Sub sign, make absolutely sure that you do not park in Jerry’s lot, and then go behind the building on Little River Turnpike and you will often find Mr. Lee waving his light saber around to help you find parking in his lot.
Yechon – 4121 Hummer Rd, Annandale, VA 22003: This is a 24-hour standby. It’s big and they do everything well. It’s located a bit away from the other restaurants and many don’t like how generic it feels, but that’s one thing that’s good about it — you can always go there and find acceptable Korean food.
There are two other places to mention – one bakery and one chicken place:
Shilla Bakery – 7039 Little River Turnpike, Annandale, VA 22003: Forget all the weird ideas about not liking Asian desserts… you will like these! They have everything from French bread, puffy pastries, colorful cakes, bingsoo (frozen ice dessert with flavorings, fruit, etc.), Illy coffee, and yes, some of those weird Asian desserts made with beans. This place is always pumping with Korean American youth hanging out and families. The bakery is very generous with its samples so you can try four or five different breads, cookies, pastries, before buying one or none.
Bon Chon Chicken – multiple locations: Really, very few things make me NOT want to share. I have a friend who is a true foodie friend because when we shared a plate of Bon Chon’s wings, he ate the winglets (part that looks like a drumstick) so that I could enjoy the flats (the part with two bones). Sigh, now that’s true understanding. These wings are sweet, crunchy, and lightly coated.
Maybe once I get to Colombia, I’ll compile a list of the seven best Korean restaurants in Bogota.
As an expat, grocery shopping can be an adventure. But if you don’t want one, here’s a list of stores which come closest to what you would find in the U.S., Australia, or England. Many of these places are on my map of 99 expat places.
Unimart, Road 91, near Gulshan 2 circle: Opened July 2013. Wide clean aisles… The store is like a small Target or Walmart. It is in the basement with parking garages below. Excellent service. Everything from coat hangers, plastic flower pots, sports jerseys, kitchen appliances, clothes, fresh fruit, British pickles (no food dye), children’s shoes, men’s shoes, sports gear, bakery, etc. etc. Very clean and with wide aisles.
Where is the best sushi in Dhaka? At Izumi. This is probably the leading Japanese restaurant in Dhaka. On road 119 or nearby.
Where is the best sashimi in Dhaka? If you want sashimi (raw fish), then go to Goong, the Castle (a Korean restaurant that does many seafood dishes, raw and cooked).
Where is the best Thai food in Dhaka? Pan Thao on road 12 in Banani. Thai Kitchen in Gulshan is okay too. There is a new Thai place in Banani (two parallel streets behind Banani Supermarket) called Luam that makes a few dishes that are passable as well… Thai food is one of those ubiquitous cuisines you find advertised everywhere in Dhaka (along with Chinese and Italian).
Best steak? Goong. Even though it’s a Korean restaurant, they have imported beef there including Kobe beef (also called Wagyu — the famous Japanese breed of cows that get fed beer and get massages). The Steakhouse also has good steak. As does Diner 360 which has a bargain price as well.
Best Korean? Goong, the Castle.
Where is the most romantic restaurant in Dhaka? Mermaid Cafe has a few booth cabanas. Spaghetti Jazz has candles (well most do) and is dark. Panini in Banani has seating arrangements that allow for canoodling. See question below.
Where should I take my wife for our anniversary dinner? Le Souffle (it’s fancy and French), Spitfire, Saltz, Soi 71, Panini, Goong, Steakhouse. The restaurants in the Westin are expensive but they are romantic.
Which restaurant is best for taking children? Soi 71, Diner 360, Goong all have play areas or rooms for children. Istanbul has a castle for children.
Where is the best pizza in Dhaka? For American style, La Forchetta and Pizza Hut. For Italian thin style, Spaghetti Jazz and Bella Italia.
Where is the best burger in Dhaka? Have not found one I could eat all of but some like American Burger and the one at Panini was not as bad as I thought it would be.
What is the best ice cream in Dhaka? Movenpick.
Best cafe to hang out in? Northend Coffee Roasters, Cafe Italiano, Roll Express, Gloria Jeans
Where can I get the best dessert in Dhaka? Movenpick (eat in the cafe), Mr. Baker, King’s Confectionery.
Best bakery? King’s Confectionery, Mr. Baker, Do Mi Ok, Northend Coffee Roasters, and Bellagio.
Where are there nachos in Dhaka? Panini.
Where is the best fruit juice in Dhaka? Panini (ask for no added sugar, watch them make it in the sound muffling room), Roll Express, Saltz, and most places.
Finally a truly classy fine dining experience has arrived in Dhaka (I wrote this blog posting in 2012 and now I’m updating it 14 months later). It’s refined Korean food at Goong (formerly known as Dae Jang Geum and not to be confused with the Dae Jang Geum that opened up down the street). The smoky Korean barbecue is available on the third floor of the restaurant. Enjoy the elegant Korean food with an international fusion flavor (some may think that the restaurant is borrowing French or Japanese styling — the restaurant is not a hole-in-the-wall at all).
I hope that this place can maintain the same level of food and service (and it has). If they then would start serving “specials’ at bargain prices (they do have lunch specials), I’d really have to move in!
Soybeans, spinach, cucumber kimchi, potato salad, and kimchi are typical of the mandatory small dishes served at every meal.
Insist on the dumpling, mandu, being pan fried. Not deep fried.
The delicate mini bowl of pumpkin soup to amuse your palette.
The pretty tomato flower meant to tickle your taste buds…