The haemul pajeun, featuring squid and a scallion pancake
4620 Convoy Street, San Diego
It’s easy for me to get into a rut when eating ethnic food. Once I’ve tried a couple of dishes that capture my imagination, I tend to go back to them. Especially since I usually move on to the next restaurant on my list of many yet to try in San Diego. So while I might adore the sundubu jjigae at Convoy Tofu House, chances are I’m going to be trying a new Korean restaurant next time I crave that soft tofu stew, because that’s my job.
On a recent visit to a nearby Convoy spot, Blue Korea BBQ House, I was looking to escape that rut. I’ve had plenty of tofu stew, bibimbap, and Korean BBQ dishes and keep circling back them. And since I knew fellow Feaster Ian Pike had already had a mediocre encounter with this restaurant’s BBQ and banchan, I was determined to broaden my horizon.
Plenty of seating, some of which includes table grills for BBQ-it-yourself dishes
Helping me was a friend of Korean descent, which meant I was left out of most of the interaction with our server. As planned, a few dishes were recommended to replace the usual.
The first one, yukgaejang ($10), consisted of shredded beef and vegetables in a rich and spicy beef broth with thin sweet potato noodles. The broth seemed to swim with savory chili oil that made the whole dish enjoyable, to the point that I almost missed a new-to-me vegetable amidst the onions and cabbage: dried gosari. It’s the fiddlehead of a bracken fern, said to detoxify, and it tastes like a stalky green onion crossed with chard. It didn’t contribute to the dish’s flavor, but it did make enough of an impression for me to ask what it was.
The real standout dish I tried was haemul pajeun ($20), a seafood scallion pancake featuring squid. It’s not something I would have picked off the menu on my own, and it was fantastic. Squid’s going to be chewy just about every way it’s served, a deal breaker for some. But the umami flavor of the pancake won me over, and in combination the taste and texture gave me plenty of reason to cut another slice.
Like Pike, I was underwhelmed by the banchan dishes that made our way to the table, as well as some of the beef that we shared. But when it came to breaking the routine, Blue Korea delivered a memorable visit, and there are still plenty of options on that menu yet to explore.