Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The secret gem

During the film festival madness, a couple of the girls who work for the festival arrived at the office bearing sushi.... FOR $25!!!! (I'm not normally one for the multiple exclamation marks, but $25 sushi deserves them!) "My God! Where'd you get it?" I asked. "That little place on Marli Street... the Golden Bell." "Where?" And that's what everyone I tell about one of the happiest food discoveries for me in the last few months asks: where?

It's an almost invisible little place on Marli Street, a couple of buildings west of the American Embassy. I noticed yesterday that there was a number on the building: 10A. The Golden Bell is a Korean fast food restaurant that also sells an odd assortment of pantry things like ground coffee, japanese noodle soup base and various kinds of dried seaweed. There are tables and chairs inside if you'd like to dine in, and - get this - a free karaoke machine, just in case you want to sing out loud to your favourite tune while you're waiting for your Bi Bim Bab! (And let me tell you, yesterday two girls were taking full advantage - one of them (perhaps with a recent tabanca) was belting out a soulful rendition of John Legend's "Ordinary people"!)

The place is delightful! It's utterly unpretentious and the food is delicious and decently priced. A sushi roll (remember, it's budget sushi, so you won't get wasabi or pickled ginger, and you might even have sushi made of tinned tuna) which is perfectly tasty might cost you $25. Boxed meals cost between $35 and $55 depending on what you're having. For vegetarians (and for meat-eaters too) I'd recommend the Jackson Bi Bim Bab. It's made with sticky rice, different stir-fried vegetables, with a great big fried egg on the top! The other dishes I've particularly enjoyed are the Papa chicken and the chilli chicken - both of which come with sweet and sour, spicy sauce, sticky rice with sprinkles of black sesame seeds and sweet corn, and a green salad.

One of the loveliest things about the food there is the final flourishes - the cooks always sprinkle a little sauce of some kind; they'll invariably add sesame seeds or chopped peanuts or walnuts. Ask to try some of their Korean pickles (they do a spicy cabbage something) and sample the Korean pepper sauce. The food is lovingly prepared fresh and I think it's the best value for money around. You might have to wait a few minutes to get what you order (and speak clearly, because the proprietor's english isn't the best) but then you can sing a song while you wait - you won't regret it.


  1. The 'spicy cabbage something' is probably kimchi - a fermented and heavily spiced South Korean cabbage dish. Very popular and they do make it with other vegetables (cucumbers, radishes).