Korean food is not something we know much about. For instance, we know we like kimchi but embarrassingly, that’s about it.
Thanks to the Winter Olympics in South Korea, we’ve become experts on the four-man bob and can find our way round a half pipe, no problem. Yet we don’t know our bulgogi from our bibimbap.
Cue Toppoki on Hurst Street which came recommended by a friend. Not ones to ignore a good tip we duly trotted off to the Southside Korean eatery to check it out for ourselves. Smart looking from the outside – all slate grey and fuss-free front – the restaurant made a great first impression. From the inside things were less sleek and more cosy.
The tiny, cluttered kitchen was on show, staff were warm and friendly and the place was buzzing. Tables with built-in hot plates were close together, but with the lively hubbub it didn’t matter. The menu could have done with some explaining, but our waiter spoke little English and we spoke zero Korean, so we were winging it slightly.
Dishes like salad bibmbap – a bowl of white rice topped with vegetables, fried mushroom and sesame oil with a choice of topping (most people seemed to plump for a fried egg) ¬– were flying out of the kitchen and being devoured hungrily all around us.
The friend went with what he knew, ramen with chicken, and it was good. Nothing earth-shattering or different but really tasty and soothing in a mum’s chicken soup sort of way. I stuck with the majority and tried salad bibimbap with added kimchi and a fried egg. I expected punchy heat, sour notes and an oozy egg, but got an average bowl of rice with bits and bobs chucked in of which the highlight was fermented cabbage.
Nothing was awful, nor was it stand-out. Having said that we loved the bustling vibe of the place plus it’s an absolute steal – we reckon it’s the least expensive meal we’ve eaten in Brum since 1999 at under £25 for two main courses with drinks.
I’d recommend doing a bit of research before you go so you understand the dishes and don’t need to rely on the staff to explain the menu which wasn’t a good option when we visited. It’s not special occasion territory but we’d definitely go back armed with more knowledge.