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Sitting in Sand and Sippin’ Something Sweet in Seoul

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Hey there!  So this post is just going to be a quick review of a unique watering hole that I recently tried in Itaewon.  It’s called the Bungalow, and it’s located at 112-3 Itaewon-dong Yongsan-gu Seoul South Korea.  You have to go to the Itaewon metro stop and go out exit 2.  Walk past the Hamilton Hotel, and make a left on the first street on your left.  You’ll walk past the Flying Pan on your right hand side, and you’ll make a right on the next road you encounter.  Walk straight past Tomatillo, and it’ll be on your left hand side.IMG_1177

I originally was supposed to go here with my friend a month ago, but I was in severe pain from a soccer injury.  Sadly, I had to pass since I couldn’t even climb the steps it had gotten that bad.  This time around, I was fully able, and walked up the stairs to see what I had been missing all this time.  It was softly lit, but there were Halloween decorations everywhere including plenty of flickering candles, skeletons, and bats.  We went upstairs, and it definitely had more of a tropical theme going on with the surf shack room that stood opposite our unique seating arrangement.  My friend had originally told me that you could sit in swinging beach chairs and put your feet in sand and a pool.  Our seats sadly were not big beach chairs, but we got lucky enough to sink our feet in some cool, clean white sand.

Just hanging with random Koreans in the beach room

Just hanging with random Koreans in the beach room.  Note how all their legs are crossed underneath them.

It was hilarious watching the Koreans react to the beach room.   They would refuse to sit in the sand room if there were other seats available.  If they did end up sitting in the beach room, they act out their own version of the kid’s game “The Floor is Lava” as they walked on the furniture to avoid contact with the sand.   This show was worth the price of admission, but I also wanted a drink to go along with the spectacle.  So, I browsed through their menu which had cocktails, beer, non-alcoholic drinks, and food.  Initially, I wanted to get a drink in a coconut, but they were all sold out.  So, I went for a Hawaiian Punch (10,000) which consisted of rum and vodka and various fruit juices.IMG_1179  A point of interest was the fact that my friend’s non-alcoholic drink was more expensive than mine.  I like the cut of your jib, Bungalow.  The presentation was pretty good as it was served out of a cup that was designed to look like a bamboo shoot shorn in half, and there was a skewer of pineapple and cherries sticking out of it.  Tastewise, it was everything I was expecting from a tropical drink:  fruity, sweet, and with a slight kick at the end that reminded me I was drinking alcohol.  Overall, the Bungalow wasn’t anything close to lounging out on a beach in Bora Bora with a drink in my hand, but it was a fun experience to have my own sandy piece of paradise within a bar.

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Food-Lovers of the World, Unite!

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Привет comrades!  Welcome to a special bday edition of Mastication Monologues!  Today I will be talking about a restaurant that I had walked past about a million times, but I vowed to one day dine there.  Thankfully, my 25th birthday provided a perfect excuse to finally try out the Russian Tea Time Restaurant located at 77 East Adams Street  Chicago, IL 60603.  It is located in a very convenient part of the city and is well-connected with subways and buses.

Now I am a sucker for Russian history since it is filled with so many characters like Peter the Great who was 6’8″ and somehow disguised himself as a common laborer while traveling through different Western European countries to learn new skills, like shipbuilding, in order to modernize Russia.  However, I am not here to give a history lesson, so time to move onto the food.  Upon sitting down, we were greeted by our waiter who was quite pushy in regard to ordering appetizers and drinks.  Not only was the decor fitting for a Russian tea room, but the service was up to Soviet standards.  The waiter’s brusque behavior aside, we did enjoy the complimentary dark rye bread and small salad.  The bread was as dark as ebony and possessed a bold, savory flavor thanks to the caraway and spices in the dough.   As for the salad, the greens were fresh, and the dressing was a very sweet vinaigrette that enhanced the lettuce, chard, cabbage, and tomatoes.  Naturally, our waiter was back and quadruple checking to see if we were ready to order, so I got down to business and ordered the Shashlik with chicken.IMG_0953

Now, most people would be intimidated by the sound of something as foreign as Shashlik, but it is quite a simple dish.  All it consists of is large, boneless chunks of chicken skewered and roasted over a fire while being rubbed down with a simple marinade that can vary from chef to chef.  With my dish, the chicken was served on a fluffy white bed of rice pilaf and accompanied with a miniature mound of carrot salad and tomato sauce.  Even though I was a bit bummed out that the chicken was not served to me on the skewers (lawsuits can take the fun out of certain things), I was still blown away at how tasty it was.  The chicken pieces had a homemade flavor to them because each bite had a bit of a charred aftertaste, and my favorite part was the occasional citrus note that would sneak onto my palate like some sort of KGB operative making a dead drop of deliciousness.  Plus, there were grilled onion sprigs on top of the chicken like small, flavorful, wispy clouds hanging about the Ural  mountain peaks. As for the rice pilaf, I was indifferent to it, but it was enhanced by the tomato sauce that was slightly spicy and chock full o’ Uzbek goodness.  When I saw the carrot salad, I wasn’t sure what to expect since it just looked like an orange mini-haystack hanging out next to the gigantic serving of meat and starch on my plate.  However, it was the most interesting part of the meal because although the carrots were soaked in a semi-sweet dressing, they still managed to maintain their crunchiness.  This switch in textures only enhanced my meal, and surprisingly the typical overpowering taste of the carrots was not overwhelming thanks to the sugary dressing.  Once I finished all of this food, I braced myself for an after dinner treat that would only seem normal in a Russian restaurant:  a vodka flight.

A Russian liquid blanket for those cold nights

A Russian liquid blanket for those cold nights

Since we were in a Russian restaurant, I naturally would not waste my money on a mixed drink or a beer, so I was happy to see that Russian Tea Time embraced and promoted probably the most important and celebrated drink in Russian and  Slavic history.  They have three different types of flights which consist of three 1 ounce shots, and they are all themed.  I ordered the Molotov Cocktail flight which contained honey-pepper, Absolut pepper, and horseradish vodka.  My friend got the house flight which had lime, caraway, and black currant vodka.  The waiter also brought some black rye and pickles to chase the vodka and drink in the traditional Russian fashion that includes smelling the bread, offering a toast, and pounding the shot.  Out of my shots, the worst one was the horseradish one because it combined two quite potent flavors in one shot.  The horseradish burned my sinuses and the vodka burned on the way down…definitely a shot reserved for the only the staunchest of revolutionaries.  Thankfully they gave us plenty of bread and pickles to combat the alcohol equivalent of a Kalashnikov round to my mouth.  As for the house flight, I enjoyed the lime vodka the most while the caraway just tasted terrible.  I think that they should keep the caraway just in the bread and not the liquor.  Funny enough at the end of meal, my waiter asked me if I was Russian or Ukrainian, and I told him I was Polish.  Immediately, he went from being a semi-jerk to quite friendly, and after a couple of Polish phrases, he bid us goodnight.  I still don’t think it made up for his service where he was trying to hustle us all night.

So if you’re looking to try some new food or just want to warm up with some tea or vodka, come on down to Russian Tea Time. You’ll see that Russian food has more to offer than just potatoes, fish, and vodka, and it’s actually so filling and tasty that it can make you dance better than the  late, “great” former Russian president Boris Yeltsin (R.I.P.). Na zdorovye!

Russian Tea Time on Urbanspoon

Russian Tea Time on Foodio54

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