Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Last Meal of Sorts at Silla Korean BBQ

As you may know by reading the last paragraph of this prior post (OK, I know very few make it to the last paragraph) I have had my hands busy with the recent arrival of twin babies. For the most part when it comes to food and family, more is better, and these past three weeks--however exhausting they have been-- have proved to be no exception. But while my world now revolves around feeding, crapping and diaper changes (well, I suppose not much has changed except for the diapers) it is nice to poke my head out of the maelstrom from time to time and check in on the world through the lens of the internet. This time I thought it would be nice to post about the very last meal that my wife and I ate as a childless couple.

It was fitting that this "last" meal was shared with our good friends Denveater and her beau the Director. We broke bread (or dumplings) in a small booth of Silla, possibly my favorite Korean BBQ restaurant in the city. What follows are some thoughts she had on our night. For my words, go to her blog.

Me: You and the director were in hurry to get a few drinks down that night so you beat us there by about a half-hour. What was your first impression of Silla? 
Her: Okay, this may be TMI, but when we walked in, we couldn’t help but notice the elderly, disabled man seated at the table across from us. It was clear the employees knew him well; though he was with his family, it was they who were spoon-feeding him now and then, wiping his mouth. There were dribbles on his clothes, spills on the floor. When they left someone cleaned up the mess. It wasn’t pleasant, but that was the reality. I found it touching that he was being treated with such respect, like any other customer, not hidden away in a corner.

The overall vibe is very warm, despite the fact that the décor is totally nondescript. You could as easily mistake it for a pizza parlor or a barbecue shack if it weren’t for all the families and hulking teenage boys, mostly Korean, chowing down. Great people watching here.

And how was your sake?
As for the sake, it was your basic cheap stuff, served warm. Soju is of course what we should have had—but the Director’s goal was to thaw out his insides, and I was fine with that. I’ll drink anything except mass-produced American lager, and I’d probably even drink that if it were my only option, alcohol-wise.

You were set on ordering Naeng myun. We did and I thought it was great. Did it meet your expectations and how would you describe it? 
Naeng myun (here listed as  yu-chun chik mool nengmyun). It’s a cold buckwheat noodle soup, generally eaten in summer, but I had to get it despite the nasty weather because I love it so. The key is the broth, which is refreshingly sour—a combination of beef or chicken broth and rice vinegar. The mound of noodles in the center of the bowl is topped with slices of cold boiled beef, julienned cucumber and radish, and slices of hard-boiled egg. Silla’s version did not include the sliced Asian pear that’s also common, which was a slight disappointment because the crisp fruit contrasts so well with the meat, while its acidity softly highlights the tangy broth. But otherwise it hit the spot.  

How about that button? 
Hilarious. As awkward as we felt about using it, it definitely comes in handy when the place is packed and there are only two servers working the floor. You gotta wonder though if it gets to be a nuisance, with little kids and drunk teens pressing it all the time, to the point where they just ignore it, like a car alarm.

What about the rest of the meal? 
Of course, we ordered (and ate) way too much as usual—if we’d just had the kalbi (here galbee) with all those pan chan, the four of us would have been fine. Yes, the short-rib meat was positively silky, and I was especially fond of the marinated eggplant on the side. That said, I know you’re going to disagree with me on this, but I think the barbecue at Korea House is just as good as Silla’s. Someday, when you’re no longer so overwhelmed by new parenthood, I’ll drag you there for comparison’s sake.

Meanwhile, we learned a lesson regarding bibimbop: you have to scrape up the rice stuck to the bottom of the pan before it cools, or it’ll harden in place. Those crunchy bits are the best part! Still, it was beautifully done, with a perfect, molten yolk on top. Those jumbo dumplings stuffed with kimchi were the surprise hit, however. Despite their ridiculous size—no way you could pick one up with chopsticks—the dough was still thin enough that you could see through it to the filling, which was great, plenty spicy but tempered with, what did we decide it was, soft bits of tofu?

If we’d had another hour and more than one stomach each, I’d also have insisted on oyster pancake. Except then we’d probably have ended up at the hospital too, you guys emerging with twins and us leaving with a half-digested mass of fermented cabbage.

That meal at Silla was our last meal as a free and independent couple for at least the next 18-26 years (depending on how long my boys will end up living in my basement). As far as last meals go it wasn't too bad-- what would your last meal be?
Ha, that's great—I'm honored it was with us!

Well, if it could be anywhere, I'd fly to Boston to go to Neptune Oyster—which will always be my home away from home since literally the day it opened. It's a seafood-centric little neighborhood joint in the North End that, for all its laurels (it served as the setting for Ben Affleck and Rebecca Hall's first date in The Town), never rests on them, turning out the most surprising dishes, like fried oysters with pickled beef tongue, time after time. I'm hoping TAG Raw Bar will have half its mojo.

But if I were here in Denver, I'd probably empty my bank account at Beatrice & Woodsley.  From the moody, transporting decor to the inventive small plates, there's just no place quite like it—anywhere.

Restaurant Silla on Urbanspoon


  1. Congrats on the twins, and welcome to the wonderful world of parenthood. Don't wait too long to introduce them to tacos. : )

  2. If tacos pass to breastmilk, then it won't be long.



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