The tables have turned—for the last few years, I've held JooJoo up as my #1 Korean restaurant in St. Louis, but it seems Asian Kitchen is making a move. The last time I was at Asian Kitchen Korean Cuisine was in late 2013 for Christmas dinner. I had just come back from Asia and, like every other Jew in America, was trying to get some Chinese food. Royal Chinese BBQ: packed. Lulu's: packed. Frustrated, hungry, and bitter, I turned around and randomly picked an empty looking restaurant that happened to be Asian Kitchen.
The restaurant was dead. There was a Thai family enjoying Korean BBQ, but no one else there. It was just that family, my family, and the server, an older Korean woman. The walls had some kind of off putting paint color on them that I can't recall—something very 70's. Robin's egg blue? Vomity yellow? I took a seat, ordered something meaty, then a wave of banchan (small plates) filled the table. It took our server 3 trips to get everything on the table. We're talking 20+ bowls of kimchis, pickled greens, sweet black beans, potato salad, seaweed. Insanity.
Between the time the banchan hit the table and our mains arrived, two memorable things happened. First, I got scolded by my new Korean mother for drinking soju out of the bottle. I hadn't kicked the bad habits I'd picked up from my Korean business partners. Secondly, an older couple came in after us and they were the rudest diners I've ever seen in person. They couldn't understand why this Chinese restaurant didn't have any of the dishes they were familiar with! The waitress tried to explain that Korean food wasn't Chinese food, but they weren't having it. They refused the banchan because it was "gross". They came over to our table to ask how to order the kung pao chicken. I kindly grabbed the woman's face and held it on my searing hot dolsot bibimbap bowl. Finally, they left and made sure to let the server know they would NEVER be back.
The food we got that night was fine. Definitely authentic, but the flavors were a little bland. Not a bad meal, but not a great meal.
I've since returned. Banchan: still excessive, still delicious. You can ask for seconds (or thirds...) of any of them, and they'll happily oblige you. We had so much kimchi last time we were there, I think I've been fermented. The interior has been redone, a big plus. But how was the food?