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restaurant's door, however, was some recent positive feedback from my friend "P".
Cham's owner is fashion designer Kimmy Song of !iT and Chef E.J. Jeong, whose resume includes BOA Steakhouse and A.O.C., is in charge of the kitchen.
What I ate: I met "J", an old student and friend of mine, to do some catching up over lunch. We ate a number of dishes primarily from the "Korean Tapas" section of the menu.
1. Hite Lager (4 USD). To drink, "J" and I each ordered a bottle of Hite. Hite is one of the most popular Korean lagers. Flavorwise, it was fairly typical of pale lagers: it was noticeably malty and slightly bitter with a crisp finish.
2. Spicy Yuzu Pork Bulgogi + Cilantro Steamed Bun (3 USD) - sautéed spicy yuzu pork bulgogi and fresh cilantro stuffed in an open steamed bun. This item had to be inspired by David Chang's Pork Belly Buns (Momofuku Restaurant Group). The steamed bun was pillowy with a yielding chew - just about perfectly executed. The addition of yuzu to the doeji bulgogi marinade was inspired, the bright citrus complementing the ginger in the flavorful marinade. The cilantro garnish added another dimension of flavor to elevate the item further.
3. Crispy Pork Belly, Fingerling Potatoes (5 USD) - sliced pork belly cooked to a crisp, purple fingerlings, arugula, chile sauce, cream sauce. "J" had to remind me that this dish came with potatoes before I figured out what those dark things were. The pork belly was very crispy but didn't approach the almost-burnt stage: it retained its meaty texture. The chile and cream sauces combined to create a familiar doeji bulgogi marinade-like flavor that goes well with Korean preparations of pork. The arugula didn't add much, if anything, to the dish: it was quite flavorless (I would have composed this dish with a bed of arugula).
4. Calamari Mini Tacos with Sautéed Kimchi Topping (5 USD) - fried battered squid, shredded romaine, corn tortillas, mayo/cream sauce, sautéed kimchi. This was my favorite dish. (Tacos might be my single favorite food item right now.) The squid was perfectly cooked and all the ingredients combined for the desired effect. The garnish of sautéed kimchi added a crucial touch of piquancy to the tacos.
"J" ordered a Spicy Tuna Tofu Pocket (1.5 USD); a Blue Crab Tofu Pocket (1.5 USD); a Beef Bulgogi + Arugula Steamed Bun (3 USD); the Ahi Tuna, Chimichurri Sauce (4 USD); and a Spicy Yuzu Pork Bulgogi + Cilantro Steamed Bun (3 USD). He seemed satisfied with what he ate.
Reflecting on other aspects of the restaurant, I have to say that I didn't like the furniture at Cham. Hard surfaces all around, I wished the furniture was cozier and less "designed". I couldn't relax at all. In addition, Cham could be a little more environmentally friendly by replacing all the disposable cups and utensils with reusable ones.
Parking: I didn't find parking to be an easy affair at Cham. I tried to park at the big lot behind the stores on the east side of Lake Avenue, but the system of pay meters and parking regulations appeared to be ridiculously complicated, so I ended up parking on Catalina, which is a long two blocks from the restaurant. My friend "J" parked on Hudson Avenue, above Cordova, which didn't have any time restrictions. I might have avoided the hassle by parking in their garage, for which they validate. Unfortunately, I didn't notice it at the time.
The Bill: 36.98 USD.
My Rating: out of four stars (good). The food was interesting and I had no complaints regarding the service. Open Monday to Wednesday, 11 AM to 9 PM, and Thursday to Saturday, 11 AM to 10 PM. Credit cards accepted. www.chamkoreanbistro.com
Last Word: Pretty good food at Cham. I hope to return soon.
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