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Namaskar

Move over Nabi, there’s competition in town—Ulsan’s second ethnic Indo restaurant, Namaskar. Like the former, the latter is located slightly off the main drag in Shinae (old downtown), just behind Yuganae Dalk Gabi on the second floor of an otherwise vacant building. Although Namaskar lacks the kitschy full on attempt that Nabi makes at creating an authentic Indian restaurant atmosphere, it does include a few novel selections form the motherland, proving its not just another dingy kimchi den.

As our party entered the restaurant we were greeted with a brief “Namaskar” from a man dressed in traditional Nepalese clothing, and the usual “Anyounghasaeyo” from his Korean wait staff. The restaurant is clean and well decorated, although it gives off a slightly sterile vibe in comparison to the shabby glamour of so many actual restaurants in India, or even Ulsan’s own Nabi for that matter. I was also quite excited by the fact that there was a large contingency of native Indian or Nepalese diners in the restaurant, in the States, this is usually a fair indicator to the restaurant’s authenticity. Although in the States, there is also a bit more competition, and here in Ulsan it’s likely these Indo expats were operating more on the old adage of “beggars can’t be choosers”.

We were seated immediately, and served water from Nepalese styled cooper water pitchers. Nice. Our waiter spoke enough English to tell us the Samosas we ordered weren’t available. Bummer. So, in the spirit of gluttony, we ordered a third main course instead. In all we sampled: garlic naan (a thin clay oven baked bread), aloo parantha (similar to naan only filled with a layer of spiced mashed potato), lamb curry, the dal (lentils) set, tandoori chicken, and a couple of pomegranate lassi (fruit yogurt drink). The menu had a few more chicken and lamb dishes, but lacked some staples dishes such as kofta, thupka and masu.

The naan and parantha were both very well prepared, and were undoubtedly the most authentic iteam we tried. The dal set came with a bowl of yellow dal and some sides including yogurt, vegetable curry, and traditional pickles. Everything included in this dish was pretty good, and worth a second try in my opinion; however, although the taste was decent and the presentation authentic, it would be a bit of a stretch to call the dish genuine. It was just a little too light on the curry, and the consistency a little too thin.

The lamb curry would have been fine had it not been swimming in cilantro. Perhaps I’ve just become sensitized to the sharp taste of cilantro, since I haven’t had it in a bit being that it doesn’t really appear in Korean cuisine, but, well, wow, this was overpowering. A handful or two less in the curry would have made me really happy.

The chicken actually wasn’t too different from some of the leathery, stringy-tough chicken I’ve had in the cheapest restaurants in India while backpacking my way through the country, but it was a far cry from the rare times I’d allow myself to break from my budget and splurge on a ‘decent’ restaurant. Unfortunately for Namaskar, in their pursuit of authenticity they may have gotten things a bit confused, and as lovely as their actual Nepalese copper water pitchers are they couldn’t have carried enough water in two of them to rehydrate the rock solid Tandoori chicken we couldn’t eat.

So there you have it. If coaxed to, I’d go back—I’ll give anything a second chance, and there was chai tea on the menu, even they couldn’t get that wrong, right? For the time being though, I’m going to stick to my kitchen and the 2,000 won Asian Home Gourmet packs of Indian spices, which I find work wonderfully well if you know your way around the kitchen a bit.

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