Korean restaurant Ong Gie highlights an Asian cuisine on its way from novelty to familiarity
The Edinburgh eatery offers seafood, kimchi and bulgogi barbeques
A decade ago, Edinburgh had just three Japanese restaurants and the consumption of raw fish was viewed with a raised eyebrow. This month, the opening of Ong Gie in Tollcross marked the arrival of the capital’s third Korean restaurant after subterranean Shilla on Dundas Street (itself a spin-off from an original Glasgow operation) and the delightfully quirky Kim’s Korean Meals on Buccleuch Street. To put this in some context, there’s just one Greek restaurant in town – a cuisine that’s a good deal more familiar to us, while the nation other than Korea, also famous for a national dish of pickled cabbage, Germany, currently has no representatives in Edinburgh (unless you count a couple of bratwurst stalls).
Is kimchi – Korea’s famous dish of fermented cabbage dressed in chilli powder – on its way to becoming a gastronomic trendsetter like sushi? An acquired taste it may be, but it’s certainly healthy, with large doses of vitamin C, carotene and lactic acid, and adaptable, offered at most restaurants not just as a side dish, but integral to soups, stews and pancakes. Less compelling is the way it looks. Think (or, actually, do your best not to think) putrefying flesh.
The side of Korean cuisine that might take off faster is bulgogi, or grilled meat, and Ong Gie introduces to Edinburgh the appealing concept of mini barbecues sunk into the centre of the larger tables. Specially developed to avoid smoke and fumes (and thus pass fastidious British environmental health regulations), thin marinated slices of beef, chicken or pork are cooked and eaten alongside garlic and other vegetables, then eaten with surprising delicacy with salad.
There’s plenty more besides, with the use of tofu and seafood underlining the healthy approach and sufficient soup, rice and noodle-based dishes to allow easy transition from Chinese or Japanese repertoires, not to mention deep-fried dishes that probably owe their elevated profile on the menu to the culinary predilections of the local market. With only a few hundred native Koreans resident in Edinburgh, this restaurant isn’t just catering for an expat market. You’ve played Angry Birds, you’ve danced Gangnam Style; now’s your chance to get jjigae (that’s stew to you and me).
+ Table-top barbecue adventures
- Catching the eye of your kimchi platter