Toppoki is a Korean restaurant in Chinatown. It is a simple space of neutral colours, wall murals, and plenty of natural light. There are hot plates built into the tables and a view into an open kitchen, which from our end, showed an alarming usage of a microwave. I know nothing of Korean food so the menu is a beguiling mix of excitement and fear to a control freak like myself. There are dupbap and bibimbap, whatever they may be, amongst more familiar kimchi and curries.
The reality is that its nothing out of the norm. Maybe here is not the greatest example of Korean food, but everything has a familiar feel, not to far removed from the cuisine of Japan, or China. The chicken cutlet curry, for example, was identical to a katsu curry at Wagamama, though I happen to prefer the version at the Japanese chain. Here the meat was a little tough and the sauce more one-dimensional. The side bowl of kimchi – that wonderful fermented cabbage full of crunch and heat – added the missing character.
Bibimbap transpires to be a stir fry of meat and vegetables, served with another mound of rice. Its decent stuff with a real chilli kick. Dupbap seemed remarkably similar, this time with a vegetable croquette that contained mozzarella. Mozzarella in Korean food, whoever would have thought it. Whatever the provenance of the original recipe, it would be the best thing we ate all day. Gelatinous and with a real depth of flavour.
Take the four dishes at face value and you have somewhere that does fairly tasty food at a fair price point. Except it doesn’t end there. The food turns up whenever they feel like it, which, in our case, saw two mains almost twenty five minutes apart. No apology or explanation, just take it as it is. Now call me old fashioned, but I quite like to eat at the same time as the others on the table, and I’m not best pleased at the idea of my food going cold purely so I can do so. Put simply, the food at Toppoki is not worth the wait.