Gogi (July 2013)

Gogi is a welcome addition to the somewhat staid Little Venice/ Maida Vale dining scene, operating since February on a site formerly occupied by the mostly average and somewhat atmosphere-less Chinese, Hsing. The contrast is evident from the moment one enters the building. The location had always been superb, with one side of the restaurant open onto the Regent’s Canal (the short straw would be facing towards the front, onto the much less glamorous Edgware Road), but gone are the anaemic whites of the past, replaced by exposed brickwork and metal, minimalist black seating (with some nice booth options) and judiciously placed red strip lighting. Accompanied by a dance/ R&B soundtrack (at a relatively discrete volume), Gogi feels distinctly cool, how a modern restaurant ought to be. That the restaurant was also more than half full on a Tuesday evening was also an encouraging sign. The food is Korean and the place staffed by mostly Korean personnel, friendly and engaging. The menu is extensive (60+ dishes), well-laid out and caters both to the carnivorous and the more vegetarian-oriented. Prices are also reasonable, with starters in the £5-10 range and mains located between £10-15. There are also extensive sides, mostly at around £3-5. Kimchi (pickled cabbage) was a great dish with which to begin, just the right quantity and a wonderful chilli-kick, which left me salivating ahead of my main. Rather than opting for a grilled option (and there is a slightly incommodious grill placed in the middle of each table), I went for a Bibimbap, a traditional Korea dish served in a beautifully presented earthenware pot. The premise is beef (although one can opt for chicken, tofu, etc.) mixed with rice and sautéed vegetables and then seasoned with a raw egg and a generous quantity of red chilli pasty: overall an invigorating stimulation for the nose and palate. The portion size and spiciness were ideal and left me comfortably satisfied. A Koran beer topped the experience off. Will definitely be back.