Manchester in the rain, by train from Marple. This is the first weekend of the Manchester Food and Drink festival but the incessant drizzle suppresses any enthusiasm for the stalls in St Ann’s Square and the Festival Hub with more stalls in Albert Square. So we decide to try out a Korean restaurant on Shudehill; Baedku. It is situated on the edge of the Northern Quarter, up from the tram terminus and opposite the Crowne Plaza Hotel. I remember this building as an old bank and then a TV shop and first impressions are no more than OK. The place is clean and white with not many decorative touches. Spartan would be an inadequate adjective. However, we are not here to admire the interior design but to find some hearty fare to ward off the rain.
The sole waitress takes us to a table and gives us menus. There is little in way of explanation of the dishes and the four pages are divided into starters, noodles, rice dishes, meat and Hotpots. It is just a little intimidating, rather like the first time you ever saw a Chinese menu. But not everything is unfamiliar thanks to Tampopo and our one visit some years ago to Koreana,the only previous representative for this cuisine in Manchester. We order and sit back in anticipation. There is little else to distract us apart from the other diners who all of Far Eastern descent. surely a good sign. Our drinks arrive, a Korean Beer with a brand name that would not be the first choice in the UK, because it’s called Hite. It tastes fairly anodyne and perhaps only lacks an “S”. At £2.70, I was in no hurry to order another. OH was more sensible and ordered a green tea , which arrived in a substantial mug.
Soon though our shared starter of fried vegetable dumplings was placed before us. Things are looking up now, ten little Gyoza-like treasures with a soy dipping sauce. We queried whether they were actually vegetable and not meat , but apparently the spicy tofu filling confuses everyone and they were indeed vegetable, and very good! Next up we ate Dwaeji Bulgogi, a very spicy pork dish with thinly sliced and grilled pork with carrots, onions, garlic and peppers in a chilli paste. Apparently Bulgogi means “Fire Meat” and I now understand why. Alongside this we took a dish of Japchae, a stir fry of translucent vermicelli, cabbage, courgettes, carrots, onions and beef. This dish makes a good complement to the fiery Bulgogi, with a range of different flavours; some sour and some sweet. I was struggling a little to eat the Bulgogi on it’s own so ordered some plain rice to tone down the chilli.
The name of the restaurant, Baekdu, refers to a famous mountain on the North Korean and Chinese border. There is a huge poster of the mountain on the wall. It is really a caldera, a type of volcano which has blown it’s top. It made me wonder if it had inspired some of the Hot Pots that were appearing on some of the other tables. We enjoyed the food a lot and would go back on the basis of the originality of the dishes. Plenty more things to try but I would only really consider this a lunch venue though because of the “school canteen” feel of the place.