Off the El Eats

Off The El Eats: Del Seoul

Asian fusion restaurants seem to be all over Chicago. It’s not difficult to find somewhere that offers kimchi burgers, tacos stuffed with Korean BBQ or an Asian take on the Spanish tradition of tapas.

Untitled2Del Seoul (2568 N. Clark St.), about a 15-minute walk from the Fullerton Red Line stop, is a Korean fusion restaurant that offers both innovative combinations and traditional dishes.

I went with a group of friends around 7 p.m. on a Saturday and the place was packed. A line of 10 people stretched to the front door.

Customers order at the back counter and are given a number marker for a waiter to bring their food. Luckily, a table cleared just before our food was ready. The popularity of Del Seoul made a good first impression on me, but the fight for table space could be an issue for those who want to dine in.

The menu lists fusion items such as Korean BBQ Tacos and Kalbi (braised short rib) Poutine, alongside more traditional specialities, such as Bibimbop (a rice dish with vegetables) and Bulgogi beef.

I ordered the Spicy Tofu Hotpot ($10.95) which includes tofu, beef, mussels, clams, shrimp, oysters, a hard-boiled egg, onion and zucchini in a spicy chili broth, and it comes with kimchi and white rice.

Untitled3The dish is served in a hot stone bowl, and it was boiling when it was brought to the table. Surprisingly, it cooled down quickly so I didn’t have to wait long to dig in.

Although I was initially a little apprehensive, not knowing how spicy the “spicy broth” would be, the amount of chili was just intense enough so that it was flavorful but not overwhelming. The number of ingredients made the soup dense and hearty, and there was a decent helping of tofu, which was nice because it soaked up the flavor of the broth well.

My hotpot was big enough for two meals. The bowl didn’t seem too large, but even though I felt like I made a valiant effort to finish it, by the time I was full it didn’t look like I had made a dent.

My friends ordered different Korean tacos, including the blackened tofu ($3.75), Sambal Fish ($3.99), Sesame Chili Shrimp ($2.99) and Kalbi Grilled Beef Short Rib ($2.99). While some of these seemed a little pricey for a single taco, they weren’t light on the fillings, and I would recommend buying two for dinner.

Untitled4My friends all enjoyed their tacos. The blackened tofu was nicely seasoned with a shishito-aji salsa verde, and it had a good mix of edamame, corn and tomatoes for a hearty vegetarian choice. The Sambal Fish was tempura-style and came with a napa slaw and spicy aioli. One of my friends particularly enjoyed her Kalbi beef tacos because the meat was flavorful and tender after being marinated in soy sauce.

We also ordered the seasoned Gamja Fries ($2.25) for the table, which were perfectly crispy and salty. They had a bit of a kick from a spice blend that was balanced by the garlic-sesame aioli.

Del Seoul does both its traditional and fusion menu items well. I would go back to order the tacos for myself, and I appreciate the variety of the menu. Each dish we ordered had different seasonings and the preparation showed the restaurant’s attention to detail. Although the restaurant can get packed, this inconvenience only means the restaurant is popular and well worth the wait.

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