If I had to choose one of my favorite go-to dishes ever, it would undoubtedly be rolls. Yes, rolls, as in California rolls, and all of its variations. I’m not a big fast food lover and have a hard time digesting anything fried and/or dipped in MSG but anything and everything Asian (not the Oriental Chicken Salad type though) is welcome, and if it’s easy to eat (as in bite-size) and it’s got avocado in it, it’s a definite go.
Strangely enough, I’ve been finding it hard to come across my favorite food here in Seoul, though it’s probably more “Asian” than McDonald’s… I’ve seen more than enough Micky D’s here than I ever had back in the States but rolls are amazingly hard to come by. So I had to ask the chef at Crazy Rolls by Askos why that is. And the answer was both surprising and somewhat expected: Koreans consider dining out as a “fancy” experience (unless you are eating by yourself at a local joint that serves a $5 soup) and to them, rolls are perceived as being not much different from Gimbap, which is a Korean version of sushi rolls without sushi, usually made with meat or fried tofu with various vegetables and wrapped with laver. And Gimbap is considered probably the cheapest and most common food belonging to the “Boonshik” category along with spicy rice cake and steamed dumplings which are known as snacking food for those who aren’t so well off, such as students. It’s sort of like a stigma for some, if you’d like to call it. Koreans generally tend to unnecessarily (and unhealthily) spend too much of their time worrying about how they are perceived by others, and that is reflected in the products they purchase, brands they wear, places they visit, and the type of food they eat.
Hence, dining out is more than consuming food, it’s an experience and a special one at that. They want to be seen at a place that’s considered “fancy” and “nice”, eating food that looks “expensive.” Of course, it would be perfect if you could have it all, eating good food at a nice place that’s also affordable. but how often do you come across such a place? Not often, and in Korea it gets even more tough outside of Seoul where all the action is at.
I visit Songdo, Incheon every now and then. It’s a strategically planned, environmentally friendly city targeted towards “international” crowd built on man-made land that’s mind-blowingly awesome. You can get a glimpse of it in 2PM’s newest music video:
In one of Songdo’s many areas, there is a relatively new business complex called “Canal Walk” which is being filled with trendy restaurants, cafes, and shops. Among them is Crazy Roll by Askos, which specializes in Japanese Fusion like you’ve never seen before. I’m from Southern California where Rolls are almost on the same level as hamburgers in terms of accessibility and price, but it’s rare that I get to see them looking this fancy, and… incredibly delicious.
It’s not a large restaurant but it’s got everything from a bar to a private room.
Some of the dishes the chefs showcased were nothing like the way I’ve known the “rolls,” ranging from salmon rolls (that looks like above),
to Soft crab miso pasta which disappeared within seconds literally because it was that awesome (this is a must try),
With chefs who come with years of experience at highly regarded restaurants in Hotel Chosun and Bellagio in Las Vegas, you can be assured that you’d be not only getting what you pay for, but much more.
California rolls with a twist. Also gone in seconds. Their wasabi sauce is a dream.
Okonomiyaki, Crazy Roll style. Yes, it’s covered by a layer of egg which turns it into an omelette.
When I thought we were finished, the chef offered udon to alleviate my sore throat… which had plenty of fresh mushrooms and kelp. Loved how it wasn’t salty, which is a problem I always have at other places. Perfect paired with rolls although we had none left by the time the warm Udon came along.
Songdo isn’t much of a tourist spot nor is in close proximity to Seoul but definitely worth a visit if you are curious what Korea’s first “International City” looks like.
And if you happen to be in the area, this is one place you do not want to miss. While Korean BBQ and noodles are awesome, rolls will always have a place in my heart and if you are like me, I can guarantee that you will love this place. (btw, above is another humble attempt of mine at DSLR photography. Thanks to Justin for the camera adjustment/setup which basically means all I did was to shoot, literally. Technically challenged much?)
크래이지롤 바이 아스코스 (CRAZY ROLL BY ASKOS)
Incheon Yeonsoo-gu Songdo-dong 19-1 Canal Walk SUMMER 1F (202동 141호)