Thursday,16 August, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1136, 21 - 27 February 2013
Thursday,16 August, 2018
Issue 1136, 21 - 27 February 2013

Ahram Weekly

Restaurant Review: Bulgogi of Busan?

Gaya’s menu points to a poesy concrete and its ambiance is an enticing promise of Asia, assures Gamal Nkrumah

Al-Ahram Weekly

Instead of an early Friday dinner, brunch, we reasoned, would make the wintry February day brighter for Thursday-night carousers. Brunch is also where Gaya’s charm shines brightest.

Inside, a smiling Maître d’ was there to introduce himself and deliver us to an attractive young waitress. Alas, there needs to be more dynamism and attention to the customer.

As I pick up my kimbap, I reminisce about a platter of sliced kimbap — bap, Korean for steamed white rice, rolled in gim, wafer-thin sheets of dried seaweed served in appetising bite-sized slices — I savoured in Seoul some years back. But Gaya’s version was not bad at all. It was accompanied by danmuji — pickled radish — a scrumptious side dish that I am partial to.

Queen Tiye requested bibimbap, literally “mixed rice” — a signature Korean dish. Bibimbap is served in an exquisite lacquered bowl with namul, sautéed and seasoned vegetable, and gochujang, a fiery chili pepper paste, topped with shredded beef over a bed of fluffy steamed white rice. Queen Tiye refused to chance the traditional Korean raw egg.

It is far more palatable than I expect. Platinum Blonde insisted on a fried egg atop her bibimbap. I tried in vain to count the vegetables included in the bibimbap — spinach or some greens, soya bean sprouts, courgettes and mushrooms I could easily spot. Other vegetables, I could not. As in most Asian cuisine, colour and presentation matter a great deal. For visual appeal, the vegetables of contrasting colours — orange and daffodil, canary and crimson, peach and pistachio and the deepest dark green — are placed in such a manner as to compliment each other.

As we start on our respective soups, Platinum Blonde deftly picks a greasy vegetable spring roll dripping with oil. She savours the right kind of chewiness. Redhead is unsure whether to go for the steamed or fried dumplings. I stick to the seafood egg rolls, the most expensive item on the appetiser menu.

Redhead ordered egg drop soup. Queen Tiye’s miso soup looked superb and she pronounced it “perfection”.

My wonton soup was tasty. The bean paste soup with rice, Korean-style, that Platinum Blonde tried was tricky, I reckon. The cold soup with glass noodles, which nobody touched, was ghastly.

Platinum Blonde appraised fried fish with bamboo shoot sauce with bombastic aplomb. The steamed tofu with kimchi, Korean-style, was gratifying even though Platinum Blonde preferred mapo tofu, a Chinese dish originating in Szechuan, and Queen Tiye opted for steamed tofu with soy sauce. Redhead and I tucked into the irresistible mapo tofu — the been curd set in a spicy chili and bean paste sauce, prepared with fermented black beans and minced meat, a perfect match, peppered with water chestnuts, finely chopped onions and wood ear fungus.

“White” ascribes a benign agency to the denizens of the deep. Gastro-linguistic engineering. The white fish sashimi was enticing enough. We shared a mixed sushi and sashimi platter and the beef bulgogi, Korean for fire flesh, which is marinated meat grilled on a brazier. Platinum Blonde loved her fried pork with sweet and sour sauce accompanied by fried rice with pork.

As an aspiring restaurateur, she adored the exquisite Asian décor. Gaya Line is a railway serving the southern Korean port of Busan, and the railway tracks of Maadi are nearby. Anticipating a hefty bill for dinner, we were surprised that the Gaya banquet was reasonably priced.




Maadi, Cairo

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