Review of Urban Seoul – Korean and East L.A. Fusion
Urban Seoul is an experiment, in progress
I regularly visit The Diamond Jamboree center to pick up 85 Degree taro root pastries; although, last week I stumbled across a restaurant called Urban Seoul. First blush the menu reminded of a fusion food truck, it looked interesting…what is the worst that could happen?
Urban Seoul serves Korean fusion food that mashes up immigrant Korean cuisine, East L.A. taqueria, and Orange County gourmet food truck styles.
If Urban Seoul’s format sounds like Roy Choi’s Kogi truck, you are correct. Emulation is a winning strategy and it is the American way. As expected, Urban Seoul has the standard mash-up dishes like Tacos with Korean spiced pork belly, Gogi sliders on Hawaiian rolls, and kimchi quesadillas.
For me, some of the dishes needed some work, while others were simply amazing. The same goes for their customer service, good and bad. Lets take a walk through my experience
What I ordered at Urban Seoul
Bi Bim Bap
The Bi Bim Bap at Urban Seoul puzzled me. I really wanted to like it; although, this dish was a missed opportunity. This dish fell flat in design, as it came across more like a fusion of my mama’s 80’s taco salad and Korean BBQ, than bi bim bap.
The basic construction of this dish is steamed rice on the bottom of the plastic bowl and topped with bulgogi beef, radishes, cucumbers, carrots, purple cabbage, lettuce, fried onions, a dribble of Gochujang based sauce, and a nicely poached egg.
My main issue with this dish is that it ate like a salad. I really wanted a crispy rice texture in the dish, just like crsipy bi bim bap. The overall texture is a missed opportunity in my opinion.
I would have loved it if they added another hot and crunchy texture with the rice. This change would have made the dish more substantial and less like a salad. Another issue, one does not simply serve Bi Bim Bap is a plastic bowl.
Chorizo Fried Rice
I had severe self-control issues with this dish. When I asked the waitress what dish would she order if she was on death row, and could only pick one dish. She told me the chorizo fried rice, so I ordered it. After my first bite, I know this would be my death row dish as well.
The base of this dish is made with rice, fried up with chorizo. The result is a slightly hashy mixture that is extremely tasty and rich. If they stopped with the rice, I would have loved it. On top of the fried rice are pickled onions, green onions, fried onions and the best fried pork belly you will ever taste.
Normally I mix up all the ingredients together, so that you can get the full flavor explosion; although, you should taste each individual ingredient first. The true artistry in this dish are the individual components.
I ordered this dish to go, but I took a couple bites before I left the restaurant. Then I found myself eating some in the car before I started driving. Before I got back to work, my hand was in the container grabbing pieces of fried pork belly. The dish was supposed to be my dinner that night, but it did not survive the afternoon.
Watermelon Mint Aqua Fresca
If you have ever spent any time in East L.A. the Harbor Area, or Santa Ana, you are very familiar with Agua Fresca being made fresh off the back of a grocery cart. This drink is made by pulverizing watermelon, mint, sugar and water until a juice is formed. The juice is topped with ice to create a refreshing drink.
I would order this every time. I really like how the watermelon and mint play together in the drink.
Food Truck Customer Service
Customer service is one of Urban Seoul’s key opportunities for improvement. When I rolled up to Urban Seoul, there was a small crowd in front of the restaurant waiting for table. I learned that this line is partially legitimate demand and partially a management issue.
I put my name on the sign-up sheet taped to the door and even asked the waiter if I could take a recently vacated seat at the bar. The waiter told me, “I think there is a wait, please sign up outside.” I followed instructions and waited outside….and I waited.
After 20 minutes, I noticed that there were plenty of empty seats and clean tables. Sadly, the staff was too busy expediting food to seat us. I finally walked into the restaurant and just sat at the bar, a couple other people followed my lead.
The staff operated much like a food truck, with the #1 goal of turning over meal tickets and pushing food out of the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, the staff was very friendly and helpful; although, they were just overly focused on the operations side of the business.
My Final Thoughts about Urban Seoul
Tom’s Foodie Blog recommends Urban Seoul to my readers; although skip the sliders, Bi Bim Bap and expect rushed service. If you dine at Urban Seoul, please order the chorizo fried rice; you will be as giddy as I was. I also recommend the taco and quesadillas, based on my counter mates accolades. I know I dished out some tough love in this post, although I did like Urban Seoul quite a bit and I would like them to succeed.
Urban Seoul Address
In the Diamond Jamboree Center – 2750 Alton Pkwy, Irvine, Ca Ste 131
Parking sucks at the Diamond Jamboree. Just head straight to the structure
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