Hello and welcome to another edition of Mastication Monologues! I just finished my recording for my open class observation, and I am so happy that it’s finally over. Therefore, I saw it fit to celebrate with trying a new restaurant that specializes in spicy curries. I’m talking about Coco Ichiban which started in Japan, but now has locations in Korea, Taiwan, China, and even the USA. I went to the location in Gangnam which was an adventure just trying to find it. First off, it seems that no bloggers can accurately give directions on where this place is, and second off, Coco Ichiban’s directions are wrong for the Gangnam location even on their own website. So I’m here to set the record straight. You go to Gangnam station and come out exit 11. Go straight, and you will pass one street on your right. Keep going straight until you see the Paris Baguette on your right hand side at the second street, make a right. Go straight and make a left on the next street you hit. Walk all the way down until you get to an odd 4 way intersection. Veer off to your right, and you can’t miss it on your right hand side.
After wandering for a half hour trying to find it given the crappy directions, I walked in to a bustling restaurant. Their menu consists mainly of curries (7-10,000 Won), omaraisus, pho, and combo meals where you can get a curry, salad, and drink (soda or yogurt drink/lassi) for about 13,000 Won. I went for the pork cutlet curry (9,100 W), and they have an interesting chain of events for ordering. First, you pick how much rice you want with your curry (standard is 300 grams; extra rice= extra moolah). Then you can put different types of meat, fish, and vegetables in the curry sauce to accompany your main meat. Finally, there is the spice meter which ranges from 1-10; 1 being the mildest and 10 being the equivalent of drinking brimstone. After my terrifyingly painful donkatsu challenge, I’ve become a lot warier of the spice levels advertised online because people will say it’s terrible, but it won’t bother me. Yet the suffering I endured at Onnuriye Donkatsu was like a religious experience in the Church of Latter Day Spices. I was definitely cleansed of my sins and probably some of my taste buds. So I plumped for the level 5 spiciness at Coco Ichiban just to play it safe. I saw my waitress look at me like I was a nut. Great. It came out at breakneck speed, but it looked absolutely scrumptious. If you’re coming to Coco Ichiban, bring your appetite. I mixed it all together and tried some of the sauce first. It wasn’t that spicy even though people online said anything over a 3 will bring tears to your eyes. With how quickly they made it, I was surprised at how great it tasted. I do love my donkatsu, and it was easily one of the best ones I’ve had especially with the dried chili powder they provided me with at my table. They did go a little bit too heavy on the sauce, but the fluffy white rice soaked it up quite well. So each bite was swimming with spice sharks taking tiny nibbles at my palate. I also tried some of their mystery radish that was free on the the table that I assume was there to combat the spiciness. When I finished, I saw they served ice cream, so I got a sundae (3,000 Won). What came out just left me shaking my head.
In the middle of the plate was one of my gastronomic enemies ever since coming to Korea: red beans. If you’re curious, tteok or rice cake is the other one. It is in/on certain foods when it shouldn’t be like ice cream, for example. The verdant ice cream was quite tasty since it was green tea flavored, so it kind of had an earthy almost coffee vibe to it. Then I tried some of the red beans, which were warm (why?!), and it just reminded me how much I dislike them. So it was a half delicious, half depressing way to end a meal.
Overall though, I highly recommend Coco Ichiban if you like quality (spicy) curries that also come out quickly to your table.