I know this isn't a particularly Thanksgiving-y thing to blog, unless your family will be gathering around a traditional Korean barbeque this Thursday (which actually sounds like a fun idea!), but I have an excuse. This was originally going to be blogged Friday, but I ran out of time. Saturday, I was sick as a dog - a very, very unhappily sick dog - and Sunday, I'd mostly recovered and we spent the day at the East Austin Studio Tour. So there.
I didn't say it was a GOOD excuse.
And while Boots in the Oven has been languishing unupdated, I did teach Logan's snazzy iPhone to update our baby blog, Boots on the Side, and we both took advantage of the iPhone's superior camera skillz and updated over there a few times.
Back to Shilla!
On Friday, Logan had a free twenty minutes or so to meet me for lunch. We were most intrigued by Chubby Hug Happy Fun Noodle Time, but when we got there in the middle of their business hours, it was inexplicably closed. No happy fun noodle love for us. So we went to Shilla instead.
We'd missed their lunch specials by a half-hour, but I ordered the thing I almost always order my first time in a Korean restaurant, bi bim bap.
This is a big bowl of beef, rice, and assorted vegetables (which always seem to change) topped with an egg. You mix everything together with your long-handled spoon and season to taste with spicy red pepper sauce.
Even with all these components, Shilla's bi bim bap was surprisingly bland, and a little on the greasy side. I could barely taste the difference between the vegetables, and when you can't tell if what you're crunching on is a seasoned cucumber or a pickled carrot, that's not a good sign.
Panchan, the traditional Korean side dishes, were a bit of a disappointment as well.
Sure, there was a fairly nice assortment of them, but they weren't very flavorful or even particularly good. The cucumber kimchi even seemed to be a bit off - I bit into one extremely bitter wedge, that bitterness cucumber gets when it's started to turn on you. The cabbage kimchi was an unappetizing brown and not particularly spicy, the potatoes tasted like nothing, and the fish cake was bland. These are not the flavors I'm used to at other Korean places in town.
Logan ordered something we've never seen before, hwe naeng myun. The menu described it as spicy buckwheat noodles topped with raw fish, so Logan was expecting a kind of Korean-style spicy noodly chirashi-zushi. What he got was something completely different.
Yes, there were the thin noodles with their spicy sauce. But from there, things went interestingly haywire. Atop the noodles were slices of Asian pear (I hear this is often done with sweet radish, but not this time) julienned cucumber, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. The fish was on the side. We couldn't tell what kind it was except that it was in small shreds that were full of crunchy bones and were quite chewy. Apparently, this is usually made with raw skate that's been heavily marinated in a spicy sauce that partly cooks it, like a ceviche.
I can't say this combination of flavors was my favorite thing ever, but it was certainly different and neat to try.
Shilla has all sorts of stuff like this on their menu, things you otherwise don't see around here. Next time, we'll just be sure to be there during the lunch or dinner rush - hopefully things will be more carefully prepared then. (Though this review from a guy who got e.coli there isn't particularly heartening.)
Shilla is in the Lincoln Village Shopping Center at 6406 N. IH-35. 512.453.4111.
And again, don't forget you can now easily follow what's happening in Boots-land by becoming a fan of us on Facebook! We'd love to hear from you.