For those of you who aren’t long-time subscribers or follower’s of my blog, I’ll start this post with a disclaimer: In the summer of 2010 I spent a few weeks in Seoul, South Korea with a cultural immersion program. I was lucky enough to indulge in the world’s healthiest cuisine, as well as learn how to make some very traditional dishes. Kimchi is what the Koreans are infamous for- fermented vegetables- most likely cabbage and the sort, with a distinct smell that will easily terrifying people who have never experienced kimchi before. I tasted so many kimchis while in Korea that it became a part of my daily life, and even now, after it’s been seven or eight months, I still eat kimchi on a regular basis. There’s a philosophy that goes along with kimchi in Korea- that being that each family has their own distinct kimchi. As long as it’s a fermented veggie, it’s essentially kimchi- but that doesn’t mean it’s good kimchi. There was something about all the kimchi that I consumed during my visit that was similar. While they differed in ingredients, there was a similar taste in each of those firey spoonfuls (or should I say chopstick-fuls?). But since returning back to the state’s, kimchi has tasted very different- and honestly, it’s not too great.
In the past year or so Portland has been overwhelmed with the addition of Korean Restaurants. There’s Korea House, Little Seoul, and a few others that didn’t make the winter. Nara Sushi by the mall, and Fuji also serve traditional Korean Fare, but it wasn’t until mid-April that the newest Korean Restaurant opened it’s doors on Congress Street. Gogi isn’t just Korean- it’s Korean-Mexican Fusion- which is mighty popular out in California right now. Tacos are the focal point of Gogi’s menu- and while it’s not going to be anything like Jason Loring’s Taco place that will be opening up across the street from his charter restaurant- Nosh (review to come…), it’s unique in it’s own way. Now Portlanders can get tacos from El Rayo, Nosh, Gogi, and all the other Mexican Restaurants. Honestly, I don’t really care too much about tacos. They’re good sometimes, but I’ve never been blown away by one. Fish tacos are nice during the summertime, but other than that, my mind wanders to crispy taco shells filled with mystery meat. I didn’t even think that Gogi was going to serve tacos- in fact while I was reading about the mystery restaurant on Portland Foodmap, I was excited. When I discovered that they were focusing on tacos, I lost a lot of my original enthusiasm, but I decided to go. They boasted late night hours, and fresh ingredients, so I didn’t have any reason to not give it a shot.
I went for lunch with a close friend, and we ordered two tacos each- Marinated Chicken (2), Tofu, and Marinated Short Beef (Galbi), plus some fried pork dumplings and french fries. The tacos were alright- the kimchi didn’t live up to my expectations and tasted very much like Sunja’s Brand Kimchi which is sold at Whole Foods. The tofu taco I liked the best- it was great, simply because I love tofu. Otherwise I felt like they weren’t anything special, and had too much stuff packed onto the corn tortilla itself- which I might add ended up tearing apart upon picking it up. I don’t want to eat my taco with a fork… and I guess they should have given more than one tortilla per order, because the amount of food could easily fill two tacos. The cucumber salsa was delicious- maybe that was the high point of the tacos in general.
The dumplings were disappointing. I love dumplings- especially if they’re fried- but I couldn’t taste the meat in these. The shells were piping hot, and the sauce clearly wasn’t mixed right. It either tasted too much like pure sesame oil, or rice vinegar. Both are different flavors- I know, but that inconsistency was due to the fact that they didn’t mix their sauce well enough- it separated too easily. When I order dumplings I want to taste the filling- the dough itself shouldn’t be the star- and unfortunately Gogi’s dumplings tasted like a fried wonton shell dipped in some pretty wretched sauce.
The fries were sorta weird. I don’t understand why they were included on a Korean- Mexican Fusion restaurant’s menu, but they were. To say the least they were good. I mean, they weren’t like DuckFats or Five Guys, but they were comforting. The Kimchi Aioli was a nice addition, and it makes me sad to say that this was the only part of my meal that I actually enjoyed. Maybe Gogi is just getting over the new restaurant hump- I’m not going to cross it off my list entirely, seeing as I went within the first two weeks of it’s opening day- but the one thing that needs to change is the kimchi itself. If you’re going to serve any form of Korean food- even if it is fusion, you better know how to make a Korean staple…