Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Bibimbap by Etsy at fast-casual Korean joint En Hakkore

Posted By on 02.27.13 at 12:30 PM

sashimi-bap, En Hakkore
Last summer someone cleverly described the precious Wicker Park boutiqueria Antique Taco to me as "Tacos by Etsy". If you're looking for signs that the neighborhood inspires that sort of aesthetic in its fast-casual street eats, then En Hakkore is its kutesy Korean analogue. With its gold-framed menus, incongruous decorative mounted antique china, woodworking tools, kitchen gear, and delicate chandeliers illuminating a rustic wooden communal table, the place easily could be hawking cat-hair sweaters and vintage reel-to-reel tape recorders instead of the sort of Korean/insert-less-marginalized-cuisine-here hybrids we've become accustomed to in the years since the Kogi BBQ truck won the Daytona 500.

Apart from 16 custom sushi rolls—including ham and cheese and barbecued beef—that means sandwiches like a kimchi panini and a pork belly taco served on Indian paratha, and a trio of prodigious and elaborately garnished rice bowls with 14 to 16 different vegetables. The superabundance of somewhat redundant shrubbery in these big, beautiful bowls—spinach, cilantro, cabbage, purple cabbage, lettuce, romaine lettuce—threatens to overwhelm both the rice and the beef or fish you order with them. I also can't get on board with hard-boiled eggs in bibimbap. Runny yolk is essential in bibimbap, and if you can griddle pork belly or bulgogi, you can damn well fry an egg. On the other hand, I'm very much in support of the piscine options: sashimi bap, aka hwe dup bap, featuring five different kinds of fish, and the al bap, with four different kinds of fish eggs. Plus, you can customize your rice—white, brown, black, or multigrain. And the portion sizes are so large you can fry your own eggs with the leftovers.

paratha taco, En Hakkore

The paratha taco suffers in the same way the rice bowls do. Whether you order it with bulgogi or pork belly, the meat is overwhelmed by the thickness of the bread and the vegetation—a mountain of kimchi, lettuce, green onion, mushrooms, and cilantro. Both the panini and the "paratha press" feature most of these things too, along with, count 'em, three cheeses—mozzarella, cheddar and provolone. I can't tell you what these are like at present, because the master salesman at the counter warned me away. "You lose the uniqueness of the different elements," he said, which, including the overdressed sushi, pretty much sums up everything I ate.

En Hakkore, 1840 N. Damen, 773-772-9880

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