Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Busan BBQ - Tooting; Cah-Chi - Earlsfield

Wedged between the pram-wielding couples of Balham and the common-dwelling residents of Wimbledon, Tooting is/was/will be the new Shoreditch, so said a newspaper on the tube. Boasting both a broadway and a bec, they may well be on to something; however, visiting on a rain soaked evening last weekend (as if there is any other), there was definitely more a hint of desolate high street than hipster paradise. Not a single inviting light in either direction, just a cold wind and the hunched shoulders of a fews passersby, moving quickly from tube to bus.

Things didn't look good for Busan BBQ's Korean New Year celebrations. They needn't have worried. Their bright red wagon stood tall beside a small door leading into Tooting Market, chefs busy preparing food for the fifty-odd diners huddled like penguins around long trestle tables buried deep within the bowels of the tin-roofed market. Image The Walking Dead, but with hipsters and cocktails.

It's an ambitious task, serving a three course meal from a small street food trailer. Keeping that many dinners hot and not leaving the diners waiting for too long between courses is a challenge that they just about managed. Busan BBQ describes itself as Amerikorean, so we were treated to bowls of kimchi, pickles, chicken skewers, and delicious spicy meatballs, followed by a disappointing and underwhelming Philly cheesesteak. I would have been dribbling had they served the meatballs in the bread roll, alongside slaw and sweet potato chips; but instead the dry meat and bland flavour of the cheesesteak left my crying for dessert. I'm sorry to say that as the chicken I've had from them before was top top top quality. The pudding more than made up for it: a large slab of cheesecake with a sweet fruit topping. Lip-smackingly good.

The charm and personality of street food - the essence that makes it so attractive and enjoyable a concept - certainly limits the criticisms that can be thrown at any vendor. It's a challenge for the chefs and an experience for you; what works can be relished, what doesn't can be laughed off. In a restaurant you expect greater professionalism and a high standard of consistency. And what is more professional than equipping all of you staff with radio headsets? Seriously, Cah-Chi in Earlsfield is so small you could shout orders from the front-door, rather than sit there confused as the waiter repeats orders into their lapel. The food is good though. Again, pickles and kimchi galore on the set-menu, followed by marinated meat fried on the hub-cap of a car before your very eyes. Extremely healthy, the meat is eaten with shreds of various green things and rice, wrapped in a lettuce leaf. For someone who frequently dines on pies, I was left hungry by this course and had to dare the green tea tiramisu. Interesting. Sweet cream, a tiny tang of chocolate, but mostly the aroma of green tea. Like a cup of tea served with cream instead of milk.

My experience of Korean food is limited to the fingers on one hand. From what I've eaten, there seems to be a delicate balance between sweet, spicy, and healthy - like a refined Chinese meal. For Busan BBQ I would suggest ditching the American side of things for more of the Korean - more Korerican than Amerikorean; granted it doesn't have the same ring to it.  As for Cah-Chi, lay-off the theatrics and advise fat boys like me of the portion size when I order a sharing meal.

No comments:

Post a Comment