The black one..
Po Cha is one of those dodgy-looking Korean eateries on the strip off St Giles Central that I have frequented for years but never got round to remember its name. I just call it “the black one” due to the black paint on the restaurant’s facade. Unappealing from the outside, but intimate and cheerful within. On the menu is some usual Korean fare. Dishes are huge and moderately priced. A touch bolder and more refined than the home-flavoured menu at neighbouring Assa (I call this “the Thai one” as it’s very popular among Thais). There are also “the green one” and “the post-it one” next to Po Cha that I am hardly bothered about.
The red ones….
With the chilli demand from Mrs CC, I ended up with a tableful of menacingly chilli-fied dishes. Kimchi Pajeon was a pancake with vibrant kimchi filling. I loved the tang from the cabbage fermentation and the expertly crispy skin. The soy vinegar dipping undercut the lip-lickingly greasy texture. Topokki was deliciously gummy rice sticks braised in sweet chilli sauce combination. Masochistic. Very spicy but then the intense sweetness straightaway relieved my palate of the burning heat. (At Po Cha, you can also opt for the extras of fish cake and noodle). Stir fried pork with kimchi was also appetising. The tender slivers of pork cooked just right went down well with crunchy pickled cabbage leaves. There were slices of tofu on the side to act as a chilli extinguisher. Also spectacular was Bo Ssam – slices of steamed pork belly served with vegetable batons doused in ssamjang paste (chilli, sesame oil, garlic, onion). This was a DIY dish. I popped a little garlic, chilli and pork onto lettuce leaves and then a slap of ssamjang. The play between hot and cool elements was heavenly. The voluptuous fat from the belly rendered my chilli-fied bite refreshingly meaty and balanced. Spicy bulgogi, however, was a let down. Chilli-marinated pork belly slices arrived a little too grilled for my liking. Kimchi Hot Pot with Seafood did not get me excited at first as most of the seafood (blue swimmer crab, prawns, mussels) was frozen. That said, very soon after, all the components came alive in a pungent, sour and hot kimchi broth. The sight to behold and the flavour to relish. The bill came to about £80 and the meal could have fed at least 5 people (or 10 if you order steamed rice).
PS For chilli haters, I promise it won’t be a spicy meal next time
GO FOR: Chilli comfort. Cheap and big portion.
56 St Giles High Street
Tel. 020 7379 7391