Don Bauder 11:30 a.m., Oct. 23
Downtown: Fat Cat Café's secret weapon
The new sandwich shop is starting a whole new (Korean) ball game. Call it midday heat...
What’s beefy and spicy and came in at #23 on a CNN readers’ poll of the world’s 50 most delicious foods?
Uh, say whu?
That’s exactly it: Bulgogi, South (and North) Korea’s most famous food that’s not kimchee.
I’ve discovered it here at this sandwich shop on C Street downtown…
Okay, not quite downtown. It’s next to the old Churchill Hotel between 8th and 9th on C. It’s the Fat Cat Café (819 C Street, downtown, 619-702-7475). Opened early July, a month after the previous eatery, Ue Kara Sushi, packed it in.
And on the front window it has a paper sign advertising new dishes on top of the usual sandwiches, salads and Panini. “BBQ chicken,” it says, "Cajun grilled chicken, teriyaki chicken,” and “Bulgogi (Korean style marinated beef).”
“’Bulgogi’ means ‘fire meat,’" says Esther...
...the Korean-American lady who runs this place with her husband Danny. She thought up the "Fat Cat" name and is even drawing the logo cat. They came down here from Oakland and bought this early-closing (3:00 p.m.) lunch place so that they could have more time with their special needs daughter. It’s only now, after the first month, that they’re trying Korean foods out on customers.
Bulgogi is the first.
Natch, I have to order it. Cost is reasonable, $6.95. Nice pile of beef that’s steaming rich aromas of its marinations of soy, sesame oil, garlic, pepper, ginger, apples, onions, garlic, ginger…dee-lish.
‘But the kicker? Esther’s own hot sauce, a combo of South America (she grew up in Argentina) and Korea (she was born in Seoul).
“‘Gochujang.’” she says, when Danny plunks the little pot of angry red stuff in front of me. Turns out it’s a mix of red chili, glutinous rice, fermented soybeans. “But we have our own recipes,” she says. She learned it from her grandmother who has been making - and selling – it for most of her 92 years. “But I add my own things, like cilantro.”
Trust me, this muy picante gochujang sauce takes the bulgogi beef to a new level. Think Mount St. Helens.
Esther promises more Korean adventures, once they get better established here. Not easy, when you’ve got to persuade customers to come the extra quarter mile from the deli-rich canyons of all those hi-rise offices further down C Street.
I’ll have to go back, find out more for a Tin Fork.