Seoul searching, part 3

In case you missed it, my column that appeared in Thursday’s Go! section of the Monterey Herald this week included a whirlwind visit to three local Korean restaurants. Part three finishes the whirlwind tour at Seaside’s Orient Express Restaurant. I’ll be reposting my reviews and stories from my weekly column for the Herald here on my blog along with extra photos that didn’t appear in print.

Orient Express Restaurant in Seaside was the final stop on a whirlwind tour of local Korean restaurants.

The final stop on my whirlwind tour was Orient Express Restaurant, a top recommendation among locals for Korean eats. This time, a gang of us gathered for a leisurely Sunday lunch.

The Topokki tasted like Korea’s equivalent of gnocchi!

On the recommendation of our server, we started with the Topokki appetizer ($9.95). These rice cakes — more like dumplings, really — came in a spicy sauce with vegetables.

Our server mentioned how she sometimes eats a whole order by herself, and after a few bites, I could easily see why. The texture was unusual at first, but they were oddly addictive, especially in that spicy sauce.

The thinly sliced ribeye was flavorful, especially paired with all those side dishes.

I knew barbecue would be on the menu for the day. This time, I ordered the Bul Go Ki — thinly-sliced barbecued ribeye ($15.95). The strips of meat were huge, large enough that I actually wrapped the meat around a little clump of rice like an inside-out burrito.

The sauteed chicken and vegetables were nice, even if the veggies outnumbered the chicken.

I quite enjoyed the Dak Bok Gum — sautéed chicken and fresh vegetables in a hot and spicy sauce ($14.95). My only complaint, and minor at that, was that it was heavier on vegetables than on chicken.

The hot pot was the only real disappointment at lunch. It looked delicious . . .

. . . but the flavors just didn’t work well for me.

I was disappointed by the Kim Chi Dul Sot — a hot pot dish with a fried egg, beef and sautéed kimchi over rice ($12.95). The flavors didn’t really work well together, with disparate tastes fighting for attention on my palate.

Orient Express Restaurant is at 1884 Fremont Boulevard in Seaside. 394-9494. www.yelp.com/biz/orient-express-restaurant-seaside.

I didn’t have time to visit all of the bay’s Korean restaurants — I’m curious to try Nara Korean Restaurant in downtown Monterey, and to return to Marina to sample Nak Won Korean Barbecue House or Shinra Restaurant. But for now, I’m happy to have a couple new spots under my belt that I can include in my list of “the usual suspects.”

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