Root talk: Saveurs de Coree, ginseng infusions and NLGX history

Three things regularly amaze me about King-Tai Chow of Saveurs de Coree: 1) he and partner Eunjung Yoo serve consistently good Korean food, no easy feat as they have to hustle between two restaurants, 2) he has not reported anyone crashing through those glass dividers inside, and 3) he continually mentions things that make me think, “WE NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THIS!

In regard to point three, last night he showed me a huge glass container of ginseng-infused soju. That might not seem like a big deal except the ginseng has been in there since November of 2007!

That means Chow infused it when Nanluoguxiang was still an up-and-coming area, with perhaps a dozen key spots such as Salud, Plastered, Xiao Xin’s and Sandglass. The ginseng — he imported it from Korea, “because it’s the best”, says Chow — has been in there as NLGX grew for better or worse into a major destination for cafe, restaurant, bar and snack seekers. And even though my photo below is poor quality, you can see he didn’t skip on the root.

Look for this infusion to appear on the menu at the Ju’er Hutong branch at rmb40 per pour — that reflects how many years it has aged (four) and how much you get (40 ml) — and to be paired with a treat.

Chow says that when he used to serve it to customers, some didn’t like it — they found it too strong, earthy, medicinal — with those from southern China and Korea being most amiable. I can vouch that it is concentrated: taste that Korean terroir! And that I enjoyed the story behind this infusion and both trying something both new (in terms of experience) and relatively old (in terms of how long it has been in that jar).

Two other things:

  • Chow has only part of one jar left, so, as they say, “supplies are limited”. Also, if you get that bibimbap set with this, a heads up that the spiciest sauce is gonna make you sweat.
  • Look for the other Saveurs de Coree, up the street ini Xiang’er Hutong, to do a special deal on April 3, with either bibimbap or barbecue, plus one Korea-themed cocktail at rmb69. Also look for Stephanie Rocard of Mao Mao Chong to be behind the bar that night. More on this soon.

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