At 5:40pm, stuck in bumper to bumper traffic, I couldn’t help but ask myself why anyone in their right mind would leave the city for dinner? As I shook my fist at the cars on the road ahead of me, G finally managed to get onto the free way and off we went to Woo Lae Oak restaurant in Rolling Meadows to learn more about the Korean Cuisine Globalization Project, a tasting event hosted by the Consulate General of South Korea in Chicago. Apparently, some 0f the premier Korean restaurants in the area reside in the suburbs to serve the large Korean population that lives outside the city. It’s here that we had a chance to taste the beautiful plates presented to us by their new chef, Tae Jin Park, and learn about the many health benefits provided by Korean cuisine.
Our tasting started with a sweet pumpkin porridge, and progressed into marinated beef short rib wrapped in daikon, a stir fried noodle dish called Japchae, and Gujeolpan, a dish that originated in the 14th century consisting of a thin wheat cakes that you fill with thinly sliced vegetables, beef and abalone and dip in a spicy sauce. As we were beginning to fill up, plates of Dukbokki, Bulgogi and an amazing spicy mushroom soup, that was indeed quite spicy, arrived at our table. My husband attempted to fight off the spice but I could already see beads of sweat forming above his brow as he sipped more and more of the flavorful broth. We completed our meal with a dessert, a thick, sweet, cinnamon tea that is considered to aid in digestion.
This was quite possibly the most elegant Korean dining experience we have had in Chicago and it exposed a more sophisticated way of presenting dishes than we are accustomed to in our usual Korean spots. I’m excited to see what the new chef will bring to Woo Lae Oak’s menu and maybe, just maybe… I’ll be making a trip out to the suburbs more often. The Korean Cuisine Globalization Project is a brilliant idea to bring people together and educate them about a cuisine and culture that deserves more recognition.