A Taste of Korea

I discovered adventure in my palate late in life. Although I grew up in a family of great home cooks, I remained largely uneducated in matters of the kitchen until I got married and, by necessity, had to learn how to feed my family. I have to admit, cooking was a skill I did not master readily. It was this, however, that opened my senses to a more exquisite appreciation of food. Then too, age, wisdom, and the occasional travel gave me the impetus to explore beyond the limits of what I have been used to.

I’ve been to quite a few places over the last few years but my husband and I went to Seoul for the first time in December of last year. Not being a fan of Koreanovelas, K-POP, or even traditional Korean cuisine, I went to Seoul with a completely blank slate. No expectations.

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Kittymama in Nami Island, S. Korea

Seoul, however, was prepared to win me over. Apart from all the history I imbibed in the days I spent there, she opened my eyes and taste buds to her gastronomy. It was in Seoul that I learned to eat bulgogi, bibimbap, kimchi, and oisaengchae, among others. I surprised myself by my willingness to take on these new food experiences when before, double-fried chicken fastfood-style was the full extent of my Korean food knowledge.

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All-you-can-eat buffets were our favorites during our visit to Seoul

And so, Seoul left me with a hankering for more of her, and in the months that have passed, I have been unable to satiate this longing. That is, until the day I visited Leann’s Tea House.

Ten minutes away from my own home, (fifteen if I add the traffic), Leann’s is situated along Mother Ignacia St., a stone’s throw away from Burger King in Timog Avenue. A three-storey edifice which was once the owners’ family home, this unassuming place is very reminiscent of the non-chain restaurants I visited in Seoul. With its cool, simple exterior, Leann’s seems determined to let its food speak for itself.

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From appetizers and side dishes to entrees and even drinks, Leann’s offers a unique degustation experience. Although its menu is relatively simple, allowing first timers to make uncomplicated choices, each of the item on the menu is a well-prepared, well-seasoned bite of Korea.

Take its L.A. Galbi (barbecued beef short ribs), easily the best choice in the menu. The galbi, cut in thin slices across the bone, is flavorful and rich, with just the right hint of sweetness marinated into the beef. Grilled on tabletop stoves before your eyes (you can do it yourself or have one of the staff help you with it), the galbi takes almost no time to cook and transforms into a melt-in-your-mouth experience. Pair it with some kimchi, which incidentally is made from scratch by the kitchen and is not of a canned variety, or spicy cucumber slices (oi muchim), and the balance of flavors is divine.

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The spicy dak gui or spicy chicken barbecue is also a favorite. The chicken is soft but cooked thoroughly and explodes into your mouth with heat, sweetness, and tanginess.

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For soup, we sampled the seafood doenjang jigae or mixed seafood in soybean soup. Robust and hearty, doenjang is a stew made from the freshest vegetables and choicest seafoods steeped in a soybean paste broth. It’s unusual to enjoy hot soup on an even hotter summer day, but doenjang is filling and rounds up the meal nicely, especially if one is not a able to partake of the rice choices in the menu.

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The japchae (glass noodles with beef and vegetables) and bibimbap (mixed rice) all received rave reviews from my feast mates, although I had to abstain myself from the temptation.

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 Temptation…temptation… I love japchae!

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Look at all the vibrant colors in this bibimbap! Does it scream “eat me!” to you?

A house special, the tonkatsu kimbap, was also a big hit, and because it was served as small rice rolls wrapped in breaded pork, I was able to allow myself one for tasting. It was, indeed, as yummy as it looked.

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Leann’s also offers a wide variety of drinks and cocktails, as well as shakes and smoothies that are good enough to be dessert. Soju, Korea’s most popular alcoholic beverage, is the base for most of the cocktails and can give one a good buzz. Worth mentioning is their Paradise Passion smoothie, which is peanut butter, banana, vanila and oreos blended in a chocolate smoothie to die for.

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Soju on the Beach + Paradise Passion = a very good time!

At the end of the meal, dessert teas (in lemon citron or honey jujube flavors) are given, compliments of the house. After such a generous repast, the teas are refreshing palate cleansers. Light and aromatic, they are a perfect ending to the meal.

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If there is one word that describes Leann’s Tea House and its food, it is this: honest. With its sedate and calming interiors, food prepared authentically and sourced from the best ingredients, and service that is heartwarming and welcoming, Leann’s takes the best of family restaurants and makes it a culinary experience worth coming back for.

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Drop by and say “anyoung haseyo” to Leann’s Tea House at 105-R New World Town Homes, Mother Ignacia Street, Quezon City or call +632-411-8902 for reservations. You can also check out offerings and events at Leann’s Tea House’s Facebook page here.

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Special thanks to Leann’s Tea House for hosting such a gracious meal and to Mommy Bloggers Philippines for the great company!

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