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Korean exotica is here... .

In yet another addition to Delhi's bloating list of restaurants serving world cuisines, here arrive Korean delicacies. Armed with exotic names, the Kim Gang restaurant at Hotel Ashok is a place worth taking a shot, says SANGEETA BAROOAH PISHAROTY... .

A FULL course Korean meal called "Hanjoungshik" is a gourmet's delight. Composed of grilled fish, steamed short ribs, other meat and vegetable dishes with rice, soup and Kimchi, laid out in unique Korean style of traditional table setting, it is not just eating food, but an Oriental ritual that fascinates. However, perched in Delhi, one could only savour it in mind. "Not anymore", says Mi Ran Lee, whose Korean restaurant Kum Gang, the only one in the city, has opened for diners at Hotel Ashok this week.

"Though not in the traditional manner, but we will serve interesting Korean food, including a variety of Kimchis, Dumplings, Chapchae etc to our guests," says Mi Ran. Exotic names like Kungjung Chongshik, Tale Kalbi Kui, Swang Son Toon and Yang Kalbi Tchim, etc adorn the menu card of the restaurant, generating enough curiosity as to what lies beyond the names.

The restaurant, the first of Hotel Ashok's ambitious facelift plan to start nine eating joints, has a cover of 80 seats and designed in a "typically Korean" style with swaying cloth streamers of different hues and exquisite Korean wallpapers, roof hangings and artefacts, all employed to welcome guests. Though, looking at the ambience, a thought would pass your mind that for a five-star, it is too spartan.

Never mind, for Mi Ran says, after having run an eating joint in Korea and "Kum Gang" for two years in Delhi's Hauz Khas, which she has moved to Hotel Ashok, she now has a "a hang" of what her clientele wants. "Besides locals and embassy crowd, my restaurant at Hauz Khas always used to have Korean tourists flocking in all the time. I hope to welcome more guests now," she says. Attired in a red and white Hanpoch, the traditional Korean dress with beautiful floral motifs on the sleeves and the gown, she says the all-time hits of her restaurant have been "Tchigae Tachgarpee", a chicken dish cooked in chilly paste and soya sauce, "Chapchea" noodles and "Haemulpajao ", a flour pancake garnished with spring onions.

Though these dishes are better in taste than their look, "Kimpab", a dish made of sea weed with vegetable stuffing is something exotic to ogle at and a taste different enough to remember. Besides, the restaurant's Chef, Jong Ming Lee also takes pride in serving you grilled jumbo prawns called "Daeha Kui", steamed lobsters called "Padagajae Tchim", bacon rolls and the famous Korean salad.

Often termed by foreigners as special, exotic and particular, the most distingushing feature of the Korean food is that it is spicy. "The basic seasonings -- red pepper, green onion, soya sauce, bean paste, garlic, ginger, sesame, mustard, vinegar and wine -- have been combined in various ways to enhance the taste of Korean foods," says Mi Ran. Chef Jong will be making use of these ingredients to give the food its authentic stamp.

However, the biggest problem for Mi Ran and Chef Jong is procurement of most of the ingredients. They are at present, importing all that they need from Korea.

Like a true restaurateur, Mi Ran says, taking the trouble would be compensated if she can satisfy her diners with her food. Let's hope she gets her compensation.

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