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Review: Korean joint offers fine Chinese fare

The new Old Town Chinese restaurant on Michalska street is just like all the other Chinese restaurants in town: it serves better than average food (that may are may not be authentic Chinese) for stiff prices. The strange thing is, it's name is Korean Restaurant.
The food is Chinese, the waitresses are Chinese, but nevermind. The point, mentioned so that Korean food lovers won't be misled, need not be belaboured. Anyone who has had a Chinese meal in Bratislava will find a similar meal at Korean Restaurant, which is exactly as good as all its competitors.

Korean Restaurant

Where: Michalská ulica 5
Open: daily 11:00 - 23:00
English menu: yes
Rating: 7 out of 10

The new Old Town Chinese restaurant on Michalska street is just like all the other Chinese restaurants in town: it serves better than average food (that may are may not be authentic Chinese) for stiff prices. The strange thing is, it's name is Korean Restaurant.

The food is Chinese, the waitresses are Chinese, but nevermind. The point, mentioned so that Korean food lovers won't be misled, need not be belaboured. Anyone who has had a Chinese meal in Bratislava will find a similar meal at Korean Restaurant, which is exactly as good as all its competitors.

For starters, try one of three teas served in porcelain pots and mugs. The best is jasmine, which has a gentle yet distinct flavour. Appetisers include fried chicken wings (served with a sweet sauce), spring rolls (fried rolls with vegetables inside), and crispy vegetables. Soups are among the menu's highlights, especially the sweet and sour, which has a tart kick; although on a recent weekday evening, the asparagus soup was a disappointment, with bland, undercooked vegetables.

Korean Restaurant's more than 100 entrees include fish, beef, pork, chicken, vegetarian, and prawn dishes. Since the Chinese wait staff, who speak only basic Slovak, is not much help in explaining foods, making a decision can be Russian roulette for inexperienced customers.

Luckily most of the dishes are good. And part of the fun in going to a Chinese restaurant is arriving with a group and sharing - so one bad dish shouldn't be a disaster. We ordered the Chicken Gun Bao, which contains vegetables and peanuts and was delicious, though not as spicy as promised by the waitress. The China City Duck, drowned in a thick soy sauce, was even better.

Portions are large at Korean Restaurant and should be - entrees cost on average around 240 crowns and go as high as 500. Rice is suggested with every dish, and only costs 20 crowns, but an upgrade to fried rice with egg ups the price to 99 crowns. Budget around 1000 crowns for two people with drinks and desert, which should be, for first-timers, the fried bananas in honey.

The interior of Korean restaurant is bright and congenial, in a sparse, blandly Chinese way. Soothing folk music is played at a low level, and somewhere (in the music? around a hidden corner?) comes the sound of running water. The waitresses are disciplined and taciturn, although in the middle of our meal we were asked if everything was all right.

Spurned by this kindness, we asked about the metal basins fixed into the restaurant's table. After several minutes of communication involving three languages and lots of gestures, we ascertained that they were mini barbecues. If a customer orders one of the menus first nine dishes (also marked 'barbecue') the waitress delivers raw food and lights the barbecue. Barbecue foods include salted ox tongue, mixed vegetables, and pork belly with sesame oil and salt.

In solving the mystery of the metal basins we solved the mystery of the restaurant's name. Although the menu is mostly Chinese, the barbecue dishes (and the custom) are Korean.

(Addendum: Korean Restaurant is located in a unique corridor of progress off Michalská ulica. It is neighbour to a night club, solarium, café, small booth selling medovina (Slovak honey liqueur), and bakery - all brand new. A lazer show runs continuously in a small courtyard outside the restaurant, nearby a fascinating modern sculpture - a shoe-shaped cyclops biting a rock.)

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