Saturday, December 31, 2016

Korean adventures in Blowfish aka Pufferfish

Yesterday, we wanted to have dinner at my aunt's favorite Korean restaurant, Xing Xing Korean Restaurant, along Tanjong Pagar road (which I also had lunch at with colleagues to celebrate the end of fucking horrible 2016 *an epic horrendous year of losses*). Unfortunately that evening the restaurant was fully occupied with a Korean tour group (seriously,  you come to Singapore to eat Korean? It's like me going to Korea to eat mee pok :D but I can understand. After a few days in Australia, my mother and I wanted to just find rice, any rice.). 

So we ended up at another Korean restaurant which I had eaten before, because I wanted to ask Bobo to try sea squirts, only to receive a vehement "NO". The BBQ was cheaper but because we were freaking cold from the relentless rain, we decided to order a hotpot. I wanted to get codfish (they were out *sigh*) so I suggested blowfish. 

"Blowfish? Is that pufferfish?" Bobo asked. Yeah, turned out it was. After a few grumbles about being poisoned, we chose the pufferfish. As we were eating the hotpot, Bobo suddenly piped up, "wait a sec, didn't we have pufferfish the other time?"

"You mean at Jagalchi? It was abalone."

"No, that pufferfish specialty restaurant."

금수 복국 specializes in pufferfish
Oh Yah! That pufferfish specialty restaurant 금수 복국! Back in Jul, we decided to go to Busan and Seoul for a week. As usual, I used blogs for references, earning me a lot of brickbats from Bobo this time as many of the suggested eateries are no longer open. I must say that South Korean turnover is super high, as compared to other recommendations I get from blogs for other countries, we encountered close to 70% failures.

Fortunately, 금수 복국 was open. In fact, it was bustling with lunch hour business when we reached in our usual blundering, confused mode (GPS and Google maps suck when standing along narrow streets especially with nearby tall buildings. The business is split into two floors, one floor serving the busy lunch crowd of ajummas and ajussis (I noticed an overwhelming proportion of older folks) who just want to eat, gossip, and glare at us two strange morons not necessarily in that order. The top floor is the more atas, zen establishment where you can dwell in silence about being potentially dying from a bite of the poisonous fish.
The saner priced menu (downstairs)
I was determined to try the atas "Kaiseki" menu, of course, having read that the blogger had a romantic set which I thought was reasonably priced. Bobo kicked up a fuss of course, because that salty olive wanted to eat the cheaper dishes downstairs.

But of course I prevailed.

But the so called romantic set was no longer available. Instead we ordered the fugu sashimi lunch set (40,000 won per pax). On hindsight, this is still cheaper than eating in Singapore (the hotpot alone was S$75, didn't even come with rice. Is so banned by me now).

For this price, we enjoyed the following:
See? Upstairs is different. Once you sit down, there is a chilled pumpkin soup

Banchan comprising of anchovies, cabbage kimchi, eggplants and octopus (or was it Jellyfish?)
Palate cleanser of "gelatin-like" fugu skin salad

La piece d'Resistance, Fugu sashimi

The service is different upstairs and downstairs. Downstairs they were polite, efficient but abrupt, even had a lady who could communicate in Mandarin. Upstairs, while the Manager could not communicate well in English, he was really effusive and endeavored. The lady who served us could not speak a word of English, but was very kindly and gentle, guiding us on how to eat the fugu sashimi. To roll chives and fugu skin (white strips in middle of plate) in a slice of see-through flesh before dipping in wasabi or gochujang, whichever floated your boat.

Some fishes. We can't understand Korean, but by the staff's hand gestures, they should be and were super yumz
More fugu in a yummy sauce
Fried Udon to fill us up. I super like!
Tempura. So-so I thought.
Finally we had the fugu stew. You could choose between spicy and non-spicy, which both of us tried. Spicy was better.
Both spicy and non-spicy versions came with golden mushrooms, watercress and bean sprouts with the fugu. You could add condiments, which came at the side.
I thought that for the variety and service we had, the price was worth it. Also there was the beautiful and quiet ambience, nice to relax and cool down after a morning trek to the gorgeous but bloody ulu Haedong Yonggungsa (famous temple by the sea). Note: one of the Busan's outlet malls is about two bus stops down from the temple's bus stop. I would have stopped but Bobo didn't let me *infuriated*.

Seriously no joke, trekking in the hot Korean summer to reach the temple.

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