Someone who’s culinary opinion I respected very much recently declared Miss Korea the best restaurant in Birmingham. Well I don’t know about that, it could well be the best Korean in town, but with a choice of two real Korean restaurants the competition isn’t exactly stiff!
Korean bbq has been around for a few years as an option in a few of the new wave of Chinese restaurants such as BBQ village. But it was only a year ago that Brum got its first wholly Korean restaurant in the form of Miss Korea. Located a couple of doors down from Min Min Noodle Bar, the sleek blackness of the interior and the cooking equipment embedded in the tables leaves you in no doubt that this place means business, Asian business. The charcoal burners can be quite intimidating for newbies. Hell they’re still a little intimidating to me. I’m still never sure which way to flick the switch or turn the flange as the signs are all in Korean. But before you get to all that grilled stuff there is the wonderful array of Banchan, Korean appetisers, to explore. Kimchi, which is slowly taking over the world, comes in cabbage and cucumber forms here and are essential to start off your meal. Also the water spinach, but not so much the seaweed as it’s a bit tough and oddly flavoured and I’m usually all over seaweed like seaweed is all over beaches.
To kick off the meal proper the kimchi fried rice with pork is a winner, a slightly greasy mound of fried shortgrain rice studded with pork accompanied by a seriously snotty fried egg that mixed together makes a wonderfully moreish dish. Or try the various Bibimbap, the most famous Korean rice dish, a hearty melange of fresh ingredients atop plain rice served in a searing hot stone bowl. Asian comfort food at its best, both particularly good when slightly drunk. As is cooking your own meat on the blazing hot charcoal heated hotplate. Thinly sliced marinated beef ribs (galbi) or beef and pork strips (bulgogi) are probably the best options. Quickly seared then wrapped in lettuce with a little ssamjang (sweet Korean chilli sauce) it hits plenty of gastronomic pleasure spots. However, the unmarinated beef ribeye steak would be heavenly if it looked like the nicely marbled piece shown on their menu but the real life offering is clearly sub par and not fit to be grilled in such a way.
Some people are put off by the idea of cooking your own food at a restaurant but I think the whole experience is really rather good fun. Just remember this when your waitress is changing your hotplate regularly because you’re choking the restaurant out with your grilling ineptitude. Don’t worry because you’re in good company, I have at least three changes every meal. It makes them very grumpy indeed. The service can be a little cold which may be a management issue because they also reject requests for tap water. An attitude they should seriously reconsider and the reason why Miss Korea cannot be called the best restaurant in Brum.
Bromsgrove St, Digbeth, Birmingham B5 6AB