Tappan Sushi and Sashimi
My knowledge of Korean food is null. I’m a spice wimp. I don’t like beer, and I will never appreciate kim chi, the fermented cabbage consumed by the barrel in some parts of the world. But Tappan Sushi, a homey roadhouse in the former digs of Irish bar Finn McCools, might just be one of my new favorite places to go for serious sustenance - Korean style.
Let’s be clear, the décor at Tappan Sushi is as uninspired as its name. Rickety wooden tables, plastic tea glasses, paper napkins and a warren of separate dining areas establish one thing: forget the frills - let’s get down to the business of eating.
Fortunately, the eating is amazingly good. So good it’s worth sitting in view of no less than three TV screens flashing soccer matches and slow motion golf. The staff is friendly and tolerant of an obvious newbie like myself. The Korean Specialties section is happily explained. Hot tea and drinks are delivered presto because, after all, I am here to eat – not to talk, not to linger.
The banchan arrive - little appetizers included with every Korean meal. Apparently, the more elaborate the meal, the more banchan. At Tappan Sushi there are several: lightly spiced chayote squash, garlicky zucchini, a little cloud of steamed egg custard bubbling in a stoneware bowl, and, of course, kim chi. My feelings on that item haven’t changed.
Next up is Dolsop Bibim Bab; sizzling rice topped with julienned carrots, mushrooms, greens, bits of beef and an egg. The rice is crusty and golden at the bottom, creamy with egg in the middle and crunchy with fresh vegetables on top. Arguably, it’s a perfect meal. For committed carnivores there’s LA Galbi, a pile of thinly sliced short ribs marinated in sweet soy and served piping hot over a bed of caramelized onions. Snip the tender meat off the bone with scissors and go to it. Don’t eat meat? There is Soft Tofu, a briny spicy stew of silken tofu with seafood, or an earthy version thick with mushrooms. Tofu haters might reconsider after tasting the complex flavors of this not-quite-soup, not-quite-stew. Or try Daegutang, a bubbling broth of lightly spiced codfish and vegetables that’s surely as curative as a hug.
True to its name, Tappan Sushi offers sushi and sashimi options, as well as teriyaki, udon and a few odd hybrids like Sashimi Salad, a bowl of lettuce topped with chunks of salmon, tuna and fluke dressed with sesame oil and the spicy red sauce ubiquitous in Korean cuisine. Perfectly edible, but why eat Japanese style food in a Korean restaurant?
My advice is to flip to the back of the menu and pick something from the Korean Specialties or Rice columns. When it arrives bubbling, steaming or sizzling, let the heady aroma hit your nostrils. Spoon the concoction into your mouth and feel the hot red spice vibrate upwards from palate to pate. Order a beer and watch some soccer. It could be a good night.
205 Oak Tree Road
Open 11:30 am – 10:30 pm, closed Mondays