Six months ago, my boyfriend Slavko and I made an arrangement that we would meet for lunch weekly at a different Asian restaurant. He was born in Serbia and accustomed to Costco sushi platters, pad thai, and teriyaki. I was born in Japan and eager to introduce him to the awesome authentic offerings, of several Asian countries' cuisines, that this city has to offer.
Slavko has since feasted on Filipino food on Beacon Hill, soothed a hangover slurping ramen at Samurai Noodle, experienced the madness of Chinatown at 2 a.m., and discovered that yes, the Cambodian people have their own style of cooking as well - and Phnom Penh Noodle House's Lok Lak is tasty as hell.
There are certainly more restaurants he needs to try, but come September, Slavko will return to Serbia for several weeks. So it made sense that we stop recapping our lunches via blog. To make our adventure come full circle, I decided to take Slavko back to where it all began: Kimchi Bistro.Coincidentally, the tiny eatery housed inside the Alley Building on Broadway is also his favorite of all the establishments he's visited. He says it feels like "getting a home-cooked meal from someone's grandma. It puts me in a good mood; I walk out stuffed and smiling."
On this visit, he ordered a grilled plate of squid; stir-fried strips of meat, vegetables, and spices that upon arrival, continued to sizzle for several minutes. He deftly used his chopsticks to pick up bean sprouts and shredded cabbage from the accompanying side dishes. After he put the first piece of squid in his mouth and reiterated his love for Korean food, I responded that this would be our last column.
"Are you breaking up with me?" Slavko asked in shock.
Once he regained composure, he said that he was sorry to see it end - and not just because he was going to lose the free lunches. In six months, he had developed an appreciation for Asian cuisine that went beyond that.
He now understands that it goes beyond teriyaki. As he surmised, "Every country has a different approach; Vietnam uses the freshest ingredients, Japan is all about presentation... and Kimchi Bistro just wants to make you happy."
On a more serious note, he noted, "I never experienced the city like this. I never went to all the different neighborhoods. If I'd gone to Chinatown, I would've walked right past all those restaurants! Now I know better."
As he picked up another piece of squid, he added, "And my parents are absolutely shocked that I can use chopsticks now. My entire life, they've only seen me eat with a fork and knife."
Once we finished eating and paid the bill, Slavko was slow to walk out of Kimchi Bistro. "We're coming back, right?" he asked.
"Of course! But we've explored a lot of places; we can come back on our own time."
He turned to me with a hopeful expression. "Maybe we just need to switch continents," he suggested. "Is anyone writing about Serbians eating African food these days?