Shoreditch is dominated by Vietnamese restaurants in terms of Asian cuisine, but Korean is slowly but surely getting their claws into the area. Jubo launched its first restaurant in The Bedroom Bar a few months ago, and now On the Bab has picked a less discrete spot near Hoxton Square on Old Street.
On the Bab sells Korean Street food. The cute little restaurant sits less than 30 and tables are quite close together with about 6 bar seats. Mister and I made it to their soft launch, which meant we got 50% off the entire food bill. It also meant we had to queue for 20mins before we were seated, and that we were entitled to go crazy with the ordering. Luckily portions were quite small so it was great for sharing and trying different things.
Kimchi is one of those foods that grow on people. It really grew on me when I began surviving on it in my uni days. There is something moreish about the slightly spicy preserved vegetables that had soaked up all the tangy juices but retaining that crunch. At £2 a pop it’s leaning on the expensive side, considering it’s very much supermarket stuff and some restaurants serve them for free.
Pa Jeon Spring onion & Seafood pancake
Another typical Korean dish, but also one that is rarely done well – too much batter, too little seasoning. I can’t say On the Bab does it particularly well either; there wasn’t enough seafood to give it the chew and flavours, even with the watery soy-based dip. On the plus side, the textures of the pancake was great, crispy and delicate on the outside, soft and doughy on the inside. Should have gone for the kimchi pancake though.
Japchae glass noodles with vegetables
I am a massive of Korean vermicelli, being a tad thicker and a tad bouncier than the usual ones. These were well-made, al dante with a touch of sesame oil mixed with thinly sliced veg. The mouthfeel was spot on, but the portion was tiny and it would have been even better with sweetened eggs.
Yangyum Chicken Korean fried chicken with crushed peanuts, sweet spicy sauce
The chicken retained its ultra crispiness despite the blanket of more-sweet-than-spicy sauce. The pieces of chicken thigh were freshly fried, and the viscous glaze clung well onto the brittle shell. It reminded me of the buttermilk fried chicken at Upstairs @ Ten Bells, but better. The peanuts, however, were just halved and half-heartedly sprinkled on the chicken, not crushed and roasted to bring out the aroma.
On the Buns – spicy pork
These were possibly the highlights of the evening. Like Yum Bun, the fluffy steamed buns were amply stuffed with thin slices of pork belly, plenty of fresh crunchy veg and a generous squirt of that delicious sweet and spicy sauce. The simple fussless combination was a winner, and I have no doubt the bulgogi beef version was just as good.
This was going for 6.50 without the discount, which just re-iterates how ridiculous Flesh & Buns is charging for a sub-standard equivalent.
Bibimbap rice and various vegetables mixed with gochujang with bulgogi beef
And the visit wouldn’t be right without checking out their bibimbap. Personally I prefer the dolsot bibimbap with the rice served in a hot stone pot with raw beef and sesame oil, but barbeque strips of beef in a metallic bowl would do too. It’s pretty standard stuff here, except it is missing the raw egg yolk! Roar. That’s like having a hot dog without onions, a burger without cheese or eggs benedict without the hollandaise sauce! Not right.
Kimchi Bokeun Bab Korean style kimchi bacon paella with fried egg on top
This was another winner. Paella was merely referring to mixed fried rice with the chili pepper paste, which was moist and tasty on its own. Then Mister broke the egg to mix the yolk with the rice, which really lifted the rice with the subtle heat and made it even more delicious.
I don’t think On the Bab serves the best Korean in town, but on the street food front, it hits the spot. Some dishes could have been better in terms of seasoning, but it’s no worse than some of the more acclaimed Korean restaurants in Central London. With the 50% discount we ended up with a £25 bill, that’s 3 small dishes and 3 mains for 2 people – I think it was just right for a very hungry couple that had a pretty darn stressful day. I’d come back for more without the discount.
305 Old Street
No reservation – walk in only