Growing up in Alaska, I wasn’t exposed to a lot of non-Chinese Asian food. Granted, I’m pretty sure the place we always ate Chinese on the top floor of the Polaris Building in Fairbanks, AK was one of the better Chinese places to eat. (Sadly, both of which are permanently closed. The Polaris Building gave such a beautiful night time view of the city.) I mean the sweet and sour sauce was not some strange, neon-red thing, it was a nice, dark brown, rich sauce. (Honestly, growing up I didn’t even know the red sauce existed!) The pork was also not breaded and fried, but tiny pork ribs. And it was so delicious. (At least, that’s how my 12-year old self remembers it.) My experience with other types of Asian food didn’t really occur until after I finished my Bachelor’s degree. I had a bit of experience with Indian at a coffee shop I worked at in college, but on the whole, my non-Chinese experience was limited. When I started working at my first “real” job, the world of Asian food opened up for me: Work Christmas parties full of wonderful sushi, amazing Indian lunch buffets and mouthwatering Thai feasts were all things I experienced and gave me such an appreciation for all sorts of culinary delights.
However, given my complete lack of Asian-ness, I’m well aware that any food I have had may be far from authentic (although I still have fantasies about the Massaman curry I had while I was in Krabi), but my taste buds definitely know what I like. Several years ago, my partner and I were heading to do some shopping at La Fromagerie. It was approaching lunch time, and everyone knows it’s best not to go cheese shopping on an empty stomach. So I found Dotori near Finsbury Park station. And man did we love it. So when I needed a place near-ish to my route home to meet up with Vicky for dinner, I suggested it. She agreed before she looked at their website and found that they do both Korean and Japanese food. So I’m pretty sure she was more than dubious when she arrived, but I think she started to get swayed when she saw how delicious the food on the table next to us looked (even though neither of us could get over the woman with the giraffe on her glasses – Vicky is right, I should have taken a photo somehow). After looking at the menu, we opted to get the set menu for two (Five banchan, seafood pancake, kkanpunggi chicken and bulgogi with rice) with the addition of Gul Twigim (fried oysters) and a bottle of Soju.
The next 20-30 minutes could only be described as comical/delicious. It started with us being brought two bottles of Soju (which they quickly noticed their mistake, and only left one bottle). First, a small salad arrived. As we were chatting and nibbling on the salad, orders of Oi Kimchi (cucumber kimchi) and Gim (fried seaweed squares) arrived for us to work on as well. Finally a plate of Modum namul (three sides of pickled diakon, spinach and beanspouts) arrived. We had a veritable smorgasbord of sides in front of us that we were slowly eating through. Everything brought out was incredibly tasty, and the only thing missing was actual kimchi (which next time I think will be on the make-sure-to-order list).
Before we even managed to get through any of the sides, the seafood pancake arrived. It looked fantastic. A giant pancake, cut into eight pieces, with luscious looking seafood poking out from it. It really was something that I wanted to dig into right away. Very quickly after that, the kkanpunggi chicken arrived. The food was arriving faster than we could photograph it and eat it! At this point the table was pretty much full of delicious Korean food, but we had even more on the way. The actual restaurant was also starting to get a bit cramped. By 6:00 pm, the place was practically full, and there really isn’t a lot of space in the restaurant for tables and seating.
Next, our addition of Gul Twigim arrived, and in all honesty, there was barely room on the table. We kept having to juggle the plates around in order to make room. Luckily, we did manage to finish a couple of the smaller dishes (the salads and Oi Kimchi), so we could try to make more room for things. Last, but certainly not least, the beef bulgogi arrived. Not only did we have to make room for it, but also for the lettuce wraps and rice that came with it! After we finally managed to squeeze it all onto the table, our table looked like it had been taken over by some sort of crazed Korean chef that didn’t know when to stop making food. Not that I’m complaining, because everything we ate was wonderful. The pancake definitely tops everything for me, but really everything was delicious: The bulgogi was soft and tender, the oysters were very moreish and the chicken was crispy with a bit of tang from the sauce.
By the time we were finished, we were stuffed. We looked into the dessert menu, and while the sesame ice cream really had me tempted, we decided to call it quits and just get the bill. And for all that food/drink, the bill was less than 25 squids per person, so it’s not only amazingly tasty food, it’s great value for money. (Because that Soju? Also freaking delicious.) So yeah, I’ve converted someone else to being a Dotori lover. She’s already talking about how we can get more of our Boozy Bunch crowd there so we can order the entire menu and try things that aren’t on the set menu. (Because while the set menu is great for sampling, it’s probably more of the popular dishes as opposed to more of the interesting dishes.) I think Dotori is still going to remain my go-to list for great food near Finsbury Park!
3 Stroud Green, N4 2DQ