An East Asian barbecue restaurant and Anju bar from Roka alumnus Jan Lee.
‘Korexican’ sounds like a kitchen-worktop material, or a sicko’s name for a drug used in treating eating disorders. In fact it means Korean + Mexican, and some people – at least 20, I’m sure – think it’s going to be a big food trend.
Bó Drake, in theory an example of the trend, prefers to call itself an ‘East Asian barbecue restaurant’ – much more accurate. It could also be called an American/Asian fusion restaurant, having elements in common with David Chang’s Momofuku group in New York and the Kogi ‘taco trucks’ (Mexican tacos, but with Korean-style meats) set up in Los Angeles by Seoul-born Roy Choi.
While the Mexican connection is indisputable, the dominant palate at this no-reservations restaurant is Korean. And the flavours are splashed on with vigour. To eat here is to surf on wave after wave of umami flavours.
Three meat dishes were sensationally good: long-smoked brisket served in a bao (soft bun) with tangy relishes; smoked pork ribs in a finger-licking pear sauce; chargrilled rib-eye (served rare as requested) with miso butter. Kimchi quesadillas were a surprisingly subtle starter, mild cheese in a crisp tortilla sauced with poblano cream. Pan-fried cauliflower came with a smoky mushroom purée. Salty, crunchy sweet potato fries (served with kimchee mayonnaise) were irresistible. The waves of flavour are incessant, but incessant in the most pleasurable way possible.
There’s a big communal table at the front and smaller tables, dimly lit, at the back. The decor is the legally mandated industrial-steel-and-concrete-meet-rustic-wood. Service was charming, though it lagged a little in the early stages. There’s a reasonably priced cocktail list, original drinks and classics; a martini was good, but a Bramble was an epic fail. Wines are few in number and fair in price, but this kind of food is better with draught beer (Brooklyn Lager or Camden Pale Ale).
So: what do you call Bó Drake’s cooking? My answer: who gives a damn? It’s the food, not the label, that matters.