That would be me, Mrs. Moglie. Married to a native Italian, Mr. Marito.
Mother to a daughter in high school, Ms. SmartyPants and a son in middle school, Mr. Uometto.
Employed at a private British School as an English teacher and Coordinator of Children's Studies.
Part of a small, but growing Protestant church in Frascati, a small town in the hills just outside of Rome.

This is where I sometimes gripe, complain and grumble about the things I dislike, have yet to get used to or simply don't understand about bella Italia.
I do, however, have many people, places and things that I dearly love and I am more than aware of being blessed by each and every one of them.
Also - a few helpful posts for visitors to Rome or for newly arrived ex pats. Check the side bar for tags. I've even some recipes that I've borrowed, tweaked or invented. One thing I've come to love about Italy is how it's changed the way I eat - slow food !! Although ... I do miss Taco Bell ... and Jack in The Box ... and KFC ... and ::sigh::
Thanks for stopping by !!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Case of The Disappearing Korean Restaurants

I really loved 소나무 (Pine Tree) Restaurant. So many great things to say about it - where to begin? The food was delicious, the service excellent, indoor and outdoor seating, a short bus ride away and for a mere 15€, the owner's daughter-in-law would even give you a stylish haircut in her bedroom, above the restaurant. One of the owner's sons (not the beautician's husband) worked as a trainer for the Italian Olympic team of ... what was it? Taekwondo? Something like that. My friend, Mrs. PerillaLeaf, mentioned it to me and I would have surely paid more attention if it wasn't for the fact that I was noisily slurping away at my scrumptiously spicy bowl of 비빔 냉면. Mrs. PerillaLeaf works at the Korean Embassy and she has diplomatic immunity. And yes, I realize this has absolutely nothing to do with the content of today's post ... but don't you just think that's kind of cool? I mean, how many people do you know who hold diplomatic immunity?! I know one! No wait, two. Her husband, also has diplomatic immunity just for being married to her. Oh, actually, make that three. The Korean Ambassador to Italy also has it, doesn't he? Mr. Marito and I had dinner at his house. That was a fun evening if only because I had the rare treat of watching perfectly respectable people with perfectly respectable government positions get perfectly hammered on soju (Korean alcoholic beverage). One Italian gentleman fell off his chair and onto the floor ... twice! 

Mr. Marito doesn't drink alcohol but for special occasions - dinner out, holidays, that sort of thing - but that evening, he had to drink. That evening, Mr. Marito succumbed to peer pressure. The men had gotten it into their heads that it would be fun to drink shot glasses of a mixture of soju and some other Italian hard liquor all the while clapping and grunting and hamming and hawing. It was a weird scene, to say the least. Testosterone, highly contagious as it is, overflowed and oozed out of every pore, thereby infecting the whole lot! They banged their glasses, downed their drinks in one manly gulp and then held their glasses upside down and over their heads, apparently as a testimony to their manliness, proving for all the world to see that they had indeed consumed every last drop. You could hardly blame them; their manhood was at stake. Although, now that I think about it, the giggling and the high squeaky peals of glee were rather questionable. We womenfolk did all that was humanly possible to maintain an air of calm dignity when what we really wanted to do was bonk our husbands over the head with their shot glasses and give them a what for. Some of us, like me, were saved further embarrassment, having husbands who had the-fear-of-a-wife-provoked in them ... other, less fortuitous wives could do nothing but watch helplessly as their husbands downed drink after drink until their inebriated inner ears played tricks on their sense of equilibrium and sent them crashing to the floor in a drunken stupor. One unfortunate soul had the disgrace to see her man sprawled onto the floor more than once, as I mentioned above. Yes, it was a fun-filled evening. 

Anyway ... this really has nothing at all to do with the post I set out to write. Stop that, Brain!

The fine Korean restaurant I was writing about, before I was rudely interrupted by my own brain, is no longer in business, here. They closed shop and moved to Naples. So rude. 

Another Korean restaurant, not as tasty, not as friendly, but still quite good was 금강산 (Diamond Mountain) Restaurant. They closed a few months ago. I don't know if they, too, abandoned the perfectly loving and faithful Korean community in Rome for the newer, younger, more attractive Korean community in Naples. They didn't say goodbye - not even a hint as to what they were secretly planning. But I should have seen the signs. Not as attentive during the last months ... aloofness. Drats! Foiled again! 

I've a new colleague at work, Ms. Gangsta, and I call her that (not just here in this blog, but to her face, as a matter of fact) because she has the less than adept inclination to sometimes try and talk like an American thug. She tries. She really does try, and there's something oddly intriguing albeit hilariously funny about hearing "yo yo yo," "dass right," and "wasssssuuuup?" said with a very proper, very posh, princess Diana type Bristol accent. The other day, she sent this SMS (right). "i be on me way" -teehee- In her attempt to be "gangsta," she ended up sounding Irish, instead. But that, plus her bubbly-ness and good humor, just makes her all the more endearing ^.^ 

She lives in a part of Rome that is teeming with all sorts of ethnic shops, eateries and other businesses. She lives near a Korean restaurant. 비원 (Bi Won) Restaurant is a short walk from the Manzoni metro stop. You'll find the servers there speak Korean, Chinese and Italian - and depending on the work shift, you may find an English speaker, too. I had heard about this place from Mrs. PerillaLeaf a while back and hadn't had a chance to check it out. I was told that the food and service there were among the finest of Korean restaurants in Rome, so I was more than happy to make a dinner date with Ms. Gansta and another colleague, Ms. AssistantDOS. Perhaps I had high expectations, perhaps I'm just a nit-picker, perhaps I'm right - but it just didn't live up to the extremely positive review I had received from Mrs. PerillaLeaf. That may be due to the simple fact that we have differing opinions on what is tasty and what is not. She likes to put 깻잎 (Perilla leaves, pronounced kkaennip in Korean) in her kimbap김밥 (kimbap) is a Korean dish similar to the more famous Japanese "sushi" (more precisely makizushi). Here's an article about Kimbap and Sushi in Canada, titled, "Kimbap Rolls out of Sushi's Shadow". 

If you're wondering which came first? The kimbap roll or the futomaki roll? Here's a little gem I found on a public forum, the author goes by the name of Peter Green: 
Korea and Japan. While it's a straightforward idea, wrapping dried seaweed around rice, you only really see it in these two countries. The idea of seasoning the rice, could come from either location. 
Historically, you have centuries of cultural exchange between the two, interspersed with high points of active aggression by the Japanese (the Wako pirates, the Imjin/Pottery War, and the Occupation). The Japanese invade, and bring elements of their culture with them, but they also bring back Korean slaves, who likewise bring their own tastes across the Straits.
Chicken and egg.
Both taste good, so it's not something to stay up late worrying about.

Anyway, I like Perillia leaves - but I like them marinated in soy sauce and Korean seasonings. I don't like them raw and served in kimbap. I like broccoli, steamed and flavored with a bit of salt and butter. I don't like them raw and served in my peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Okay, that's not the same thing, but you see what I mean. So, yes, she and I sometimes have different opinions on what makes yummy Korean food. 

To be honest, the food is not "bad" - it just wasn't what I had expected. It is good food, actually. The restaurant even has Korean-esque little grills built right into the middle of each table in case you want to try your hand at Korean BBQ. That is definitely a plus. The cost, unlike Chinese or Chinese owned Japanese restaurants, is priced moderately high. This is because it is near impossible to make Korean food without good quality and very fresh ingredients. Contrary to what you might think, that's actually not a biased statement. What I mean is that, in Korean food, much emphasis is on the individual ingredients themselves, as opposed to many parts combining to make the whole dish, like, say, a pizza. You're not really tasting the mushroom and then the cheese and then the black olives. You're tasting a pizza made up of mushrooms and cheese and olives. So if you happen to use lesser quality olives or some of the mushrooms are less than fresh - you won't really be able to note a huge difference if better quality olives and fresher mushrooms had been used. But in Korean food, when something is less than plucked-from-the-fertile-soil-just-two-minutes-ago fresh -- you'll notice it. So regardless of preferences in taste, any Korean restaurant that expects to draw and maintain Korean clientele, will use very high quality and very fresh meats, produce and other ingredients. If the prices at Bi Won are higher than what you're accustomed to at Chinese restaurants in Italy, it's because they're worth it. 

Three thumbs up for Bi Won Ristorante Coreano

Here's a link to with current info on location, phone number and a few reviews. Below are a few photos from my last visit - the photos were taken with my phone, so unfortunately, they're a little dark and of poor quality, but hey, it's better than nothing ^.^

Photos after the jump

(LEFT) 반찬 Korean side dishes

(ABOVE LEFT) 만두 Korean dumplings and 불고기 Marinated Beef (ABOVE RIGHT)

(TOP LEFT) 돼지갈비 Spicy Pork

(BOTTOM LEFT) Ms. AssistantDOS and Ms. Gangsta show off their chopstick know-how. You can kind of sort of see the (unused) "grill" under the plate of 전 a kind of versatile pancake

Koreans always end a meal with some kind of fruit. Here we were given mandarini ^.^

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