The Mexican chef was out sick for the week. That was the most disappointing thing about our visit to Mike’s Korean Bistro (3712 Lafayette Rd., 317-987-6856), one of the newest and perhaps most curious international mashups in the city, with two separate menus for Korean and Mexican standards.
So we weren’t able to experience the pan-cultural culinary experience that this Lafayette Road storefront restaurant promised.For Korean eats, however, we got the full treatment, as our very friendly waitress brought us extra samples of the staples of her homeland to share in the nearly deserted dining room. A crisp, light pancake with a nice undertone of toasted onion was a nice starting point, with a little dish of soy sauce for dipping. Then came some traditional Korean sides of pickled turnips, crunchy and fresh kimchi, and whole pickled garlic cloves to ward off any vampires in the house. The Korean menu is small, with just over a dozen or so options (compared to the Mexican menu loaded with tacos, tortas, even kabobs). So we went for a couple of familiar standards: bulgogi and kahl bi.
The bulgogi offered a generous serving of very tender strips of beef marinated in a citrusy sauce. Kahl bi had the pleasantly chewy quality and the meaty depth of flavor of the best Korean beef ribs. Perhaps the most eccentric of preparations were an order of steamed dumplings, which were stuffed with beef, not the expected pork, seafood, or veggies. With a dense puck of hamburger inside, these could best be described as Korean sliders inside a thick dumpling wrapper. Stripes of ketchup on top completed the look. An unadorned sample of kimbap, Korean-style sushi with crunchy pickled vegetables and crab was better with a little soy sauce, but it rounded out this tour of Korean foods nicely. With so much food at lunch, maybe it was a good thing the Mexican chef was out. But we knew we’d be back soon to see what he could do.