Before David Chang came along with his new, modern, and wildly popular take on Korean food, I’d not thought all that much about bo ssam, a steamed/boiled pork variant of a vegetative wrapped meal collectively referred to as ssam (the Korean word for “wrap”). Same too for the rest of the world, I would imagine.
Having grown up with it and having had it at home countless times, I view it as somewhat of a pedestrian meal, in the same way that some families may view a Sunday roast. Nice, something you’d probably not turn down, but all too familiar none the less.
What wasn’t familiar to me was actually going out to a restaurant for bo ssam, and the relatively new Korean restaurant O Se Yo does a good job at it.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of this post, there’s a little dose of self-disclosure to dole out.
The restaurant is owned by a friend of my mother. As with all my review posts, including ones that have been organised and paid for by restaurants or PR companies, I will stay true to my principles and give an honest account of my opinion of the meal. However, due to this relationship, the portion sizes indicated in the following photos are a little larger than a standard serve from what I’ve been told. Please bear this in mind if you decide to visit the restaurant based on this review.
Though I don’t normally feel the need to state this, just to be clear on this matter, the meal was paid in full. No prior notice was given about the intent to photograph & review for the blog. So, what you see, aside from a slight adjustment to serving size, is what you get.
Now, onto the post…
O se yo is a Korean phrase used as an invitation to come, which not only services as the restaurant’s name but also give some indication of the nature of their service, namely polite and friendly. The restaurant caters for the local Korean population. So it was of no surprise that the only people that had taken up this invitation were all Koreans, at least during the time while I was there.
The prospect of dining at a restaurant filled with people of an ethnicity not your own can be somewhat intimidating for some. However, at least you know you’re getting the real McCoy, with flavours undiluted to suit “Western tastes”. Whether those flavours stand up to “Korean tastes” is another matter entirely…
In a rather uncommon step, even for Korean restaurants that I’ve been to, the complimentary table beverage isn’t just water but instead boricha, a roasted barley tea served chilled. It’s a refreshing drink with a subtle sweet, toasty barley flavour to it, that just perfect for those unbearably hot days where air conditioning is a must (something they also have).
As with almost all Korean meals, a small complimentary group of side dishes, collectively referred to as banchan, are served prior to the arrival of the meal proper. Unlike what I’d read on another blog, banchan isn’t an appetiser, but instead side dishes meant to be consumed alongside the main meal.
No banchan is complete without some form of kimchi. In this case, all three dishes are varieties of kimchi.
The ubiquitous baechu kimchi, made from Chinese wombok/napa cabbage. The less common yeolmu kimchi, which is made from the green stems/leaves of young summer radish. Lastly, the even rarer dongchimi; a refreshing radish kimchi, that is fermented in a brine with flavours of radish, onions, garlic and a hint of green chili, which is consumed along with the kimchi as a chilled soup of sorts.
All the above kimchi tastes young, in that they haven’t had the chance to fully develop their flavour through fermentation. Though not to my personal liking (I prefer longer fermented, more robust flavoured kimchi), it’s better than most of the kimchi I’ve had in other Korean restaurants; and not all that spicy, at least to me.
Along with the banchan, there are a number of table sauces for dipping.
Clockwise from the top left – ssamjang, translates literally to “wrap sauce”, is a sauce made from miso, garlic & onions, and often incorporates the Korean fermented chili paste gochujang; a soy sauce based sauce with spring onions & sesame seeds, and a similar chili sauce variant of the soy-based sauce.
Haemul Pajeon ($14) – A mixed seafood and spring onion pancake, which is cut down to bite sized pieces at the table with a pair of scissors. The seafood is from a frozen mix containing squid, prawns & mussels, though this is typical as I’ve yet to see this dish made from fresh ingredients, even at home.
The haemul pajeon is rather sizable, being a little under 1cm thick and about the size of a small pizza. It’s a big lunch for one on its own, though it’s probably more advisable to share it between 2-4 people.
The squid was a little overcooked, rendering it somewhat chewy, though the rest of the elements of the dish were fine. The pancake is cooked all the way through, so the middle is set to a firm consistency, at least by pancake standards.
It’s not something I found to be all that interesting, as much as it tastes ok. If you like pajeon or other savoury pancakes, feel free to try this out and make up your own mind on the matter.
Bo Ssam ($35) – The bo ssam platter is an impressive display, far more impressive that what you would see in a typical Korean home, unless it’s for a special guest or occasion. This dish is meant to be enough for two as a main, though we’d received a little extra due to the close relationship with the restaurant owner, as previously stated.
The breakdown of the bo ssam components is as follows:
- Steamed pork belly with a miso paste rub on its outer edges. The meat is sweet, succulent with a firm texture and perfectly seasoned. This is very good, even by my rather harsh standards of Korean food.
- You may find the pork belly has little bits of crunchy cartilage embedded in some of the slices. This is left in intentionally, so either enjoy the crunchy contrast or remove them as you see fit.
- Kkaennip is a Korean perilla leaf, similar to the Japanese variety known as shiso, which has a crisp texture to it.
- Blanched Chinese wombok/napa cabbage leaves.
- Pa kimchi, a kimchi that is made from spring onions which, in this case, is flavoured with a sweet soy sauce & smoky sesame oil dressing, with flecks of chili powder and toasted sesame seeds. Despite the chili flakes, there’s no discernible heat.
- Mu kimchi, a kimchi of shredded daikon radish with little fresh oysters, which is often used as the basis for making baechu kimchi. Though the flaming red colour may give the impression of a mouthful of burning hell, it’s actually rather mild on the heat scale.
Assembled thusly, topped with some fresh garlic and green chili which also comes with the bo ssam platter and a little ssamjang, this makes for a tasty and reasonably nutritious bite-sized wrap. Fresh, crisp, sweet, salty and a little spicy; a delightful dish that, thanks to O Se Yo, I’ve found a renewed respect for.
O Se Yo is a restaurant I’d like to explore more of. As with my recent post on the Korean restaurant Cafe C’Ya, I’m reluctant to recommend this place as a good Korean restaurant (yet). However, the bo ssam is good and is something that I can see myself having there again.
To check out the other dishes that O Se Yo have on offer, a menu is available on their Urbanspoon page.
O Se Yo Restaurant
1/38 John St, Lidcombe.
0438 006 152