Chicken wings are having a moment, aren’t they?
No longer just an abbreviated snack, they have been fused and fancied up, fussed over, and high-fluted to an unrecognisable level. I mean, they have a whole festival!
Your reviewer even lives above one of these temples to the queen of meat’s limb.
Equally, Korean-Mexican fusion is on the rise. From its Santa Monica origins in the late 90s to LA fame, and now around the corner from Vicky Park.
Ashley Chipchase (best surname for a restaurateur) found his Mexican soul rather heroically while on furlough during the great-indoor-lock-in. What did we do, eh? Start a business? Try but fail to finish The Wire (speaking for a friend)?
With food truck and crew in tow, everything rather sizzled up from there. After winning second place at Wing Fest, awards and endorsements from a famous MC have provided them with greater and greater… hype, I believe the kids call it.
The 30-year-old can jump on that train like the best of them, yet every wandering nomad wants a permanent watering hole. So, in May, with the help of a spot of crowdfunding, they nabbed a sweet rectangle of a space with enjoining outside area between Bow and Bethnal Green.
Considering their wheeled origins, the restaurant is very grown up. Black and white floor tiles, exposed brick, marble tabletops and neon signs give us the eclectic but still put-together sense of a hot new thing on the scene.
What I believe to be midnight blue covers an accent wall, and the cosy strings of orange lights tempt us to venture out into the dwindling evening.
The menu is to the point, clipped, and easy to understand. Small plates, tacos, or wings – thems your options. Time, thought and words must be devoted to the thing, the wing, that started this whole journey.
Honey Buffanero, or Gochu-Gang, and Cauli Bites for the vegans.
The Gochu-Gang is a fermented, rice and chilli Korean sensation, and its pairing with the sticky slickness of well-cooked meat is a match crafted by the food gods. Dusted with a crown of sesame seeds, spring onions, and drops of gochu mayo, it’s certainly a pretty dish. Although Ashley can’t be credited with its invention, or even being the first to bring it onto the London food scene, these are damn good flappers.
The Honey Buffanero boasts an award-winning buffalo sauce but is overpowered by a rather flat chilli taste, a clash of metallic heat that isn’t offset by the oozing blue cheese dip or micro coriander (which is a rather pointless garnish).
Cauliflower, also coated in the famous gochu-sauce, is a lighter option for vegan and non-alike, although equally mess-making. Nibble, debone, suck and savour to your heart’s content, you filthy beast!
Tuna Tostada on a corn tortilla is a slab of purplish sashimi, feeling under seasoned and bland in comparison to the wing’s kick.
Elote Ribs, on the other hand, are wide, almost architectural arches of corn, like cathedral windows that crunch satisfyingly. They are coated in chilli flakes and a pecorino cheese keep them from the vegans, but we carnivores and veggies praise to high heavens this most pleasing bite.
Punchy Bulgogi Beef Tacos and Spicy Pork Belly variations are cooked with patience and precision. This taco bar has its head screwed on when it comes to the Mexican delicacy. Korean slaw, lime crema, fried leeks, salsa verde, and bibimbap sauce keep the culinary fusion burning throughout.
We hope the menu expands from the two meat and one tofu option. Fish taco? A light edition for summer that is much needed.
The bowls are oddly high walled for what is required, although all sit under £12. And they are certainly on the petite side, so be ready to double up for your favourites.
The fun starts (or ends, depending on consumption) with the drinks.
Soju, the Korean rice spirit, pops up in many forms. Shots of plain grape juice are wonderful palette cleansers and stand in for the lack of desserts.
But you must immerse yourself in ritual and have somaek. This is a traditional drink where you pour a shot of soju into a half a pint of light beer, then fluff it up with a spoon, making a foaming beverage that tastes like a candy floss cloud and a cider had a child. Beware dear diner, a man at a table behind us smashed his glass in a misguidedly spirited cultural moment.
Mezcal shots give the taste of tequila with the warmth of whiskey, while the expected blazing Picante and the unexpectedly potent Kimchi Bloody Mary are musts for a flame-kissed on-theme tipple.
As we trundle out the door, having gone through a small forest of napkins and still feeling sticky, a green tea off-menu cocktail is slung down the bar “just to try”. Is there any way to get in my good books quicker?
Mexican Seoul is riding a culinary wave that started off the coast of sunny CA, yet perhaps is on its way to cresting. Yet Ashley and the team surf with skill and energy. This is a neon-glowing venue for a raucous and mucky dinner.