A cool new restaurant in Stoneybatter is not exactly breaking news these days, and despite the fact that I’m still in recovery following the 2019 closure of Fish Shop on Queen Street, it’s an area I always like to explore. It just feels a little bit London, in its ability to be a neighbourhood despite a busy thoroughfare slicing through it in the form of Manor Street, in the make-up of the restaurants and coffee shops, and of course, the property prices.
Korean Table, the former home to Cow Lane Tapas and Beo Wine Bar + Kitchen, is a room so smart that new owner Vivian Cho needed only to add a few personal touches. The statement raw plaster walls are the perfect foil for the cacophony of green that trails down from the high shelves of plant pots, amid memorabilia that she accumulated over the years. Festival lights, strung from the ceiling, are yet another detail that is attracting the love of the TikTok generation.
Cho worked as an interior designer for many years, and also as a chef when she was living in Seoul, landing a job as a private chef for a 99-year-old wealthy industrialist. The selection process bore more than a passing resemblance to Squid Game, as 20 chefs were pitted against each other in a challenging competition. She stayed for two years, and was well clear of the stove when her master finally called time on kimchi and three bottles of wine a day at the grand old age of 103.
Such longevity could perhaps be attributed to a Korean diet full of vegetables, although the correlation/causation thing may well be called into question. I would like to think that the rather pricey wine was the secret sauce.
Korean Table started as a food stall amid the pandemic two years ago – Cho clearly loves a challenge – and continues to trade in Kilruddery on Saturdays and Marlay Park on Sundays. At the bricks-and-mortar restaurant, the menu is still concise, but is an extension to the takeaway offering.
Six little taster dishes arrive before the two main dishes. The slices of courgette, deep-fried in batter, are the only bites that should be dipped in the sauce, our server tells us, immediately triggering my inner Bart Simpson. But one instruction is scant reason to disrupt the cuisine of a fine nation, and we relish the sauce with the hot crispy courgette; maintaining the required distance between our steel chopsticks and said sauce as we hover over to the other bites.
We are duly rewarded. The kimchi is extremely good; full of crunchy, brined cabbage leaves that have been fermented with gochugaru chilli, garlic and everything that has been called upon by an heirloom recipe. With a bottle of Moretti beer (€5.50), I could happily devour bowls of it. Having not yet risen to the status of soju aficionado, I pass on the opportunity to have the national drink with my meal. But if you’d prefer wine to beer, there are six bottle options, all below €30.
Our other small dishes include pickled seaweed, crisp bean sprouts dressed in sesame oil, and there’s a bit of crunch from a slice of lotus root and florets of broccoli.
The tofu bibimbap (€19.50) will see off any tofu-sceptic, particularly the one sitting across the table from me. Pressed before it was deep-fried (I’m speculating here), the result is wonderful pieces of chewy deliciousness. We add spicy gochujang sauce to the vegetables on top of the steamed rice – grated carrots, thinly sliced courgette, chunks of aubergine, beansprouts, red onion, and strands of omelette – and mix everything together for a rainbow of healthy loveliness.
Curls of steam unfurl as the hot pot (€19.50) arrives in a black stone vessel, with thinly sliced beef, peppers, mushrooms and glass noodles bobbing in the cauldron. A bowl of rice is served alongside, so each element can be left to drain before eating. This is a nurturing dish that is said to cure all ailments including the flu. It may just be the answer to the winter that lies ahead of us.
We have no dessert, because it is still early days for Korean Table, so it has yet to be added to the menu. But it matters little. This is, in every way, just a wonderful place to eat; casual, inexpensive and tasty. Somewhere that has a place in every neighbourhood. Particularly for those of us who don’t have a private chef.
Dinner for two with two beers was €50.
- Verdict: A restaurant you will return to time and again
- Music: K-Pop, what else?
- Food provenance: Limited, the Asia Market and Musgraves, the chicken is not free-range
- Vegetarian options: Butter kimchi fried rice, and tofu bibimbap which can be adapted for vegans
- Wheelchair access: Accessible, with accessible toilet