Phyllo dough or no, it’s all Greek enough for meEwha Womans University has never had a substantial number of Greeks among its student body. But nestled in a comfortable nook just across from the back gates of the school is Gyros, serving delicacies from the land of democracy and feta cheese -- to an extent.
The crumbly white cheese is on the menu, as are other signature Greek ingredients, like spinach and yogurt. No phyllo dough in sight, however, and nary a grape leaf.
The restaurant’s owner, Bob Kim, says that making authentic foreign cuisine in Korea is a challenge. “We import feta cheese and some spices,” Mr. Kim says, “but we can’t get everything we need.”
Mr. Kim got his start in Greek cooking while living in Canada, learning from Greek immigrants there. He operated a Greek restaurant in Toronto for three years before moving back to Korea a year ago.
Although the idea was born in the frigid Canadian clime, the restaurant’s interior is distinctly Mediterrranean. The walls are graced with pictures of classical statuary and large posters of the Greek isles, dismissed by my dining companion as looking “just like Ulleungdo,” the island off Korea’s east coast.
As Mr. Kim says, providing authentic foreign cuisine in Korea is a challenge because of the shortage of the necessary ingredients. The food at Gyros seems more like an addition to the Korean food family. But it’s a delicious adjunct.
Gyros (4,000 won, or $3.50, for a good-sized wrap) come with a choice of chicken, pork, a combo of the two or a veggie filling. Our chicken gyro was perfectly tender, with a savory marinade.
Three mini-pizza-slice-sized sections of spanikopita cost just 3,500 won. There was some real good-and-gooey melted cheese to go along with the spinach, all between two pieces of pita bread and with a spiced yogurt dipping sauce. This is definitely not to be missed, but it will lead to constant cravings for authentic Greek cuisine.
And what would a Greek restaurant be without, what else, a Greek salad. At 4,000 won, ours was fresh with plenty of black olives and tomatoes, topped with a light vinaigrette.
The flavors were so nearly authentic that by the end of the meal we were converts to this brand of Greek dining. “The original is always going to be a little different,” Mr. Kim says. But in able hands difference can be a good thing.
by Jason Zahorchak
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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