Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Stack of Beef Bulgogi

Mapo maybe considered the “best Korean restaurant in the city”, but then again to my knowledge there are only two Korean restaurants anyways, that is if the other a grubby, canteen looking establishment qualifies as a restaurant. What I do know is that it serves up traditional Korean delicacies at half the price, more on that in another review, another time.

Known for its traditional dishes that come spruced up with contemporary garnishing and plated up with nouvelle snobbery (aka large white plates and tiny portions), Mapo offers what Adelaide’s online restaurant reviewing community refers to as a “swanky dining atmosphere”. I beg to differ since at 8.30 pm on a Saturday night I was stuffed in the back end, amidst tables cluttered with remnants of an earlier round of service. The wait staff are by far the worse I have ever come across, even by Adelaide’s somewhat atrocious standards! At first we were pressured to order drinks, without having been seated for five minutes. And then when we were ready, signally a waiter was a task in itself. Following which, having picked out a bottle of Tyrell’s Sparkling red that caught my interest, we waited, and waited – ten minutes went by then I enquired about our drinks and the possibility of table water. Another five minutes later, our waiter looks flustered attending to a party of ten, another couple and my table (just two of us). Now, twenty minutes of being seated, no water, no wine, no service and no sign anything is improving either. I’m begin to get agitated. I manage to flag down our waiter who then blurts out that Tyrell’s Sparkling is not available! I look at him with a quizzically at first then my face starts to heat up with frustration. Deep breathes, I pick up the menu opt for the house sparkling and shrug off the twenty minute wait that was in vain.

I resigned myself to an evening of mediocrity and seemingly undeserving prices, sipped on the peppery, fizzy wine to try to sedate my nerves. I ordered the Beef Bulgogi Bi Bim Bap, that comes in a stoneware sizzler still cooking.

Bi Bim Bap is basically a deconstructed Korean rice dish. White rice, a number of vegetables (usually carrots, cooked spinach, bean sprouts and others) and a portion of meat, in this case the bulgogi. Bulgogi is eaten both as an appetizer or piled on rice, as it is with the Bi Bim Bap, however traditionally this dish is served wrapped in sesame leaves. The basic technique is to marinate the meat in a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil and green onions and because the marinade contains sugar a close eye on the meat while grilling is required. The meat is grilled hot and fast and served pretty quickly as it can get tough if it’s left too long. In food courts across South East Asia you will see it being served similarly to a Japanese Tepanyaki Bar.

With the Bi Bim Bap, the mixture of rice, veggies and meat is usually topped with a fried egg, which you are supposed to break over the whole thing. It all gets mixed together and is served with a sweet and spicy red sauce to make this rice dish into an entire meal. And at this point I must interject. The little pot of brownish-red sauce that was placed on my table at the time of our mains being served, was whipped off the table ten minutes into our meal by another waitresses, without so much as a single word! After requesting our waiter bring us a new one, we spotted the waitress pulling a pot of sauce off another table, the reddish-brown condiment dribbling from the side. Just the thought of a used pot of sauce made me queasy! I use a simple rule of thumb: if what you can see in terms of service makes your tummy turn, then imagine the scene in the kitchen. So this brazen I don’t give a shit attitude had my imagination running wild!
After sitting through a single ordeal at the Gouger Street restaurant I believe I need an award, and I have to contest the online food reviewing community and wonder, what the hell are these people thinking!
While overall the food was pretty good paralleled by horrible service to say the least, my mind is made up – next time I’m craving Bi Bim Bap – to th the dingy, Korean place next door I will go!

113 Gouger Street, ADELAIDE
Ph: 08 8211 6042

Korean Bi Bim Bap with Beef Bulgogi

Mapo Korean on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Cari said...

Babe, I love your final conclusion, and you are SO right!! The waitstaff is SO friendly at the place on Pitt Street, the portions are enormous (it's grill-your-own), it's dirt cheap and you know the place is clean b/c you can see the meat displayed in piles in glass counters and you can see right into the back kitchen. Patronage was always 95% Korean, 5% other when I walked by there, which was every day. That's a good sign. Go there!! Can't wait to hear about it!!