“Eat Drink Man Woman” is one of my favourite movies. In my recollection, it was one of the first foodie movies and after watching the scenes in the Chinese kitchen during college, my friends and I always ended up in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. But, I am actually referring to the Korean restaurant in Stuttgart. Yes, note the definite article. THE Korean restaurant. I was hesitant to try it. When I first moved to southwest Germany in 2005, I recall stumbling upon the Korean grocery store (review to come later) on Bebelstrasse in Stuttgart and seeing the business card for a Korean restaurant. Having just moved to Germany from London, I didn’t realise that these weren’t things to be taken for granted: a Korean restaurant and a Korean grocery store. I asked the nice owner if he recommended the restaurant. His answer I thought was worthy of any peacekeeping diplomat, “Their cooking style is adjusted for German patrons.”
At that point, I felt fine never knowing for myself. I’m pretty sure that that restaurant is now closed. Since we moved back to Aalen last summer and now that we have a daughter with a voracious Korean food appetite, we sought out a Korean restaurant in our environs and found the listing for “Eat Drink Man Woman” in Stuttgart. In Korean it is, “Eom, Sik, Nam, Yeo.” The restaurant has mixed reviews and friends of mine from the International Women’s Club of Stuttgart recommended it. I still wanted to wait till the memory of Korean food in America was more distant before trying it for myself.
The moment came this past Friday. Spontaneously, my husband and I decided to go to Stuttgart to attend a design fair with hopes of finding furnishings for our new house. The stars were aligned: his last meeting ended in the late afternoon and we had a competent babysitter who could stay through the evening. We didn’t find anything for the house at the fair, but any date with my husband is a good thing.
I’m glad I made a reservation for the restaurant. It was packed, and the only open table was ours reserved for 20:00. We didn’t see any Korean people there, but since there aren’t many Koreans in Germany, especially in the south, this wasn’t much of a barometer. We saw white Germans, Asian Germans and Americans.
The service was efficient and courteous. The owner is Korean and I had spoken with her to make the booking. I made the mistake of speaking Korean with the other Asian woman working there, so heads up, readers: don’t speak Korean with her.
The decor wasn’t memorable. There’s a cheerful red and white color scheme, prints of Italian food names and ingredients and assembled puzzles of things not particularly Korean or East Asian hung on the walls. As a starter, we ordered the kimchi-jeon or kimchi pancakes (7.50 euro). They were the perfect orange-yellow color and quite fluffy. Round and similar size to a pile of American pancakes you’d get as a side. Often, in Korean restaurants, they come as one large round that is cut into pieces. These were doughy and fluffy but also crispy. My personal preference is to have less dough and more filling such as kimchi, vegetables or meat. (This is awesome with bits of pork, by the way.) But the taste was good. It was on the salty side (a regrettable trend in Asian restaurants in Germany) so there wasn’t any need to dip in the soy sauce dipping sauce.
We were then presented with an assortment of banchan served on divided whiter rectangular plates, a total of 9 nine banchan.
- The kimchi and ggagdugi (radish kimchi)were homemade, fresh and not bad.
- There was a miyeok (seaweed) and cucumber salad which was a bit too salty.
- There was one unidentifiable banchan with a familiar flavor. Here was the bit of fusion cooking: it was shredded celery root!
- Lightly pickled red radishes. I think this was also an example of using your local ingredients. Germans eat lots of these Radieschen. And coincidentally, the New York Times posted a video and article on how to make fast pickled Korean style radishes with these same radishes. They were fresh and not too salty or sour.
- Other banchan included: shredded radish, cucumber salad, kongjaban (soy sauce black beans).
The overall quality was fine but no culinary delights.
I’d say the same about the main dishes we ordered: sundubu jjiagae (soft tofu and seafood spicy stew) which was 14.90 euro. I don’t think that the Asian secret sauce (i.e. MSG) was used, but neither was real sundubu. Instead, normal soft (vs. firm) tofu was used. Sundubu is more like a custard and is usually sold wrapped in plastic in tubular form.
We also wanted to try the dak galbi (35.90 euro), which was served as a spicy chicken quasi-barbecue/stew. It was really spicy and served on a grill over a flame, so it was also very hot. The dark chicken meat was pleasant and so were the dangmyun noodles (sweet potato vermicelli used to make jabchae). They also included a few ovals of ddeok (rice cake), chunks of carrots, white cabbage and zucchini. My least favorite were the carrots since they were simply too hard. I appreciated though that they used real Korean chili peppers (aka put-gochu or capsicum) which added an authentic bite of flavor.
We noticed most of the surrounding tables had ordered bulgogi which looked and smelled good.
All of our dishes were OK, but I rather explore what else is on the menu to find better dishes in this restaurant’s repertoire. But this is a positive. This means that we would and will come back, and we think the kids will like it. The service was also friendly and prompt, the toilet clean enough and prices were OK. With barley tea (bori-cha), two draft beers and mineral water, meal cost 71.80 euro without tip. We’ve had better Korean food in Germany, but we have also had a lot worse. We’re grateful that Eat Drink Man Woman is a decent Korean restaurant in our one-hour radius.
NOTE: Parking is grim in Stuttgart-West. Bring your parking kharma and enough time to circle all the surrounding blocks.