Monday, June 11, 2012

Um-Ni Korean Fusion Resto -- small restaurant, big food discovery

It's a little bit hard to find since it's hidden in a small corner beside the steps leading to the street. It's also obscured by bars and large posters advertising beer and band schedules.  
It's also a small, odd shaped place but if you pass by Um-Ni in Paseo de Sta. Rosa and you go right past it -- you will have missed discovering one of the best places to enjoy Korean food.

We specifically drove to Sta. Rosa last week-end so that I could bring everyone to this Korean place that I had literally stumbled on a few months ago.
You can imagine my dismay when the sign said at the door said "Closed" -- oh no, I panicked.  They've gone out of business!
But there were people inside and apparently,  they had just forgotten to turn the sign over to read "Open".

That kind of oversight probably gives you an idea of how casually this place is run.  After taking our orders, the waitresses started applying eye shadow, right at the counter.
But let's not quibble -- we were here for the authentic and very good Korean food -- service be hanged!
Besides, when we got there, we were the only ones in the place -- this small 14 seater restaurant was ours for now -- so go ahead Ms. Waitress and put on your pretty face.

In addition to a written menu, the wall decor at Um-Ni consists of photos of the various Korean dishes they specialize in.  There are also some Japanese inspired dishes like pork cutlets (tonkatsu) and cold soba, which is probably why they call themselves a "fusion" restaurant. 
As usual, I wanted to order everything I saw on the wall!

This soup which I had tried the first time I ate at Um-Ni is called odeng tang or fish cake soup. It's easily become one of my favorite comfort soups.
The waitress gives you a choice -- spicy or not and I decided to go for the hot and spicy version, even if it was hot and sunny outside.  The better to work up a sweat, to cool the body down!
The odeng tang broth is umami-licious with hints of anchovies but it was also chili hot. Thin triangles of fish cakes and rolled fishcakes on barbecue sticks floated in the broth.  So good!
An order can be shared by two to three people but if you're like me, you can probably finish the entire bowl by yourself.

For those who prefer a non spicy soup, the doenjang jjigae (spelled as denjang chigae on the menu) is made with fermented soybean paste, a staple in Korean cooking.  It comes with tofu slices, julienned vegetables, mushrooms and pieces of meat.
This is very tasty -- and non threatening to those who want to avoid the usual heat of korean food.  An order comes bubbling hot in its own stoneware bowl and is paired with rice.

For the meat eaters, I ordered chin man doo or steamed dumplings made of minced pork, cabbage and scallions.  There are 12 good sized pieces per order.

Since Korean fried chicken has become such a trend, what with the popularity of Bonchon Chicken, we decided to order Um-Ni's Korean fried chicken. This order of half a chicken came with 5 pieces.
I was told that it was very crisp, tasty, non greasy and was definitely and infinitely better than Bonchon!

The photo on the wall labeled Kimari tempura looked very interesting and when I was told that it was chapchae or glass noodles and vegetables rolled in nori or seaweed and fried in tempura batter -- I knew I had to order it -- finally, a real vegetarian dish!
It was a terrific discovery --  the texture of slip-slidey glass noodles with the crunch of nori and tempura batter was a combination that really worked!
We also ordered a hae mul pajeon or a seafood pancake.  It had generous slices of squid and shrimp -- mixed with the usual pajeon batter of flour, egg and scallions.  Um-Ni's pajeon has that authentic taste although it was a bit sloppier and softer than most -- perhaps due to the disproportionate amount of ingredients mixed with the batter.

After all that good Korean food --I was glad for the foot rest thoughtfully built into the small tables at Um-Ni.  Time to put my feet up and relax after a filling and fulfilling lunch!
Since there were more of us on this visit, we were able to sample more dishes. My first visit was definitely not a fluke!  Um-Ni is indeed a great foodie discovery, albeit hidden in the corners of the Paseo de Sta. Rosa mall.
It's definitely worth the drive!

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