Middle of the Road

The Korean cultural centre cafe serves up cafeteria cuisine in cloistered surroundings.

Written by Shantanu David | Published:May 17, 2013 11:59 pm

The Korean cultural centre cafe serves up cafeteria cuisine in cloistered surroundings.

Long before Park Jae-sang (known as Psy) brought South Korea to the centre of pop culture with the ridiculously catchy ‘Gangnam Style’,another Korean export resonated throughout ethnic restaurants in the world: Bulgogi (‘fire meat’ in Korean),one of the world’s great meat dishes. Comprising thinly sliced prime cuts of beef,drowned in a lavish bath of soy sauce,sesame oil,sugar,garlic,pepper and other Oriental seasonings,after which it is grilled on a girdle as hot as a dragon’s tongue (roughly the same heat radiated by an average Delhi road this time of the year),bulgogi is one of the mainstays of Korean cuisine and by extension,a key representative of Korean culture. The Korean Cultural Centre Cafe in Lajpat Nagar has no bulgogi on the menu.

While one waits for the shock from this fact to settle in,it would be a good idea to explore the rest of the centre. Guarded by a formidable metal gate and even more formidable security personnel armed with a register and pens,the centre’s interiors are a peaceful white haven from the chaos of Ring Road outside. Split across several floors,the centre houses a kaleidoscopic display of Korean objet d’arts,from vivid paintings to intricate figurines. There are also spaces for flower arrangement classes,a movie club which meets every Friday to see Korean films,and even a dojo in the basement which offers taekwondo lessons.

The only let down in the place is the cafe,the lack of bulgogi notwithstanding. What the cafe does offer are a handful of Korean snacks,desserts and drinks of the non-fermented kind,in rather unimaginative surroundings. We dispiritedly decide to try Gimbap (the Korean version of sushi),which turns out to be characterless. Translated literally into seaweed rice,the gimbap tastes exactly like it sounds. In a fit of masochism we also order a kind of noodles,with too many consonants to remember,which turns out to be limp instant noodles swimming in a bowl of liquid the colour of manufactured food’s blood,its vital preservatives oozing out in an oily sheen. After trying a forkful we take a leaf out of Psy’s book and gallop our imaginary horse out of there.

Address : A 25,Ring Road,Lajpat Nagar IV. Contact: 43345000

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