A quick look at the restaurant’s name wouldn’t conjur images of delicious Korean food, but that’s exactly what Shikgoo is about. Tucked away on a quiet street in Wedding next to an Irish pub of all places, Shikgoo is a humble basement establishment that offers an authentic Korean dining experience in Berlin.
The restaurant is a small space, divided into a café on one side and a dining room on another.* Upon entering, I wondered why so many shoes crowded the room entrance. Turns out, Koreans traditionally eat on low tables and sit on cushions, an ambiance that Shikgoo has recreated for Berliners whose budgets can only afford a hop on the U6.
We arrived roughly half an hour before closing time, and the shoe-verboten section was packed. The waitress later told us that the room can only seat twenty at most, so dinner felt pretty cozy with two groups of six and two couples. Many languages filled the air, most notably Korean, and a rule of thumb that’s never failed me is: when one is surrounded by natives in a restaurant, one is bound to have a good meal.
The menu is surprisingly diverse, organized by recognizable Korean dishes like kimbap, a larger, rice-heavier version of the Japanese maki sushi roll; mandu, Korea’s answer to Poland’s pierogi, and bibimbap, a popular meat-and-vegetable dish served in a hot stone bowl. We opted for squid and pork bulgogi, a typical marinated meat dish, along with our appetizer favorite jeon, the umbrella term for Korean pancakes. Scanning the menu and room for something to drink, we spotted an unusual-looking white bottle on the large group’s table. The waitress told us it was makgeolli, a milky rice wine, and decided to try it for ourselves.
The best part about Korean dining are the side dishes or banchan, which arrive before the other courses. This is where Shikgoo loses a star. After being spoiled at places like Arirang and Madang by the quantity and diversity of side dishes, I was disappointed to only be served sesame-sprinkled fried tofu, a seemingly nontraditional salad, and the minimum kimchi. Thankfully, the quick arrival of our vegetable pancake tamed our growling stomachs. It wasn’t the best I’ve tried – I prefer it with seafood, which they didn’t have – but is still a recommendable tasty treat.
What the side dishes and appetizer lacked was aptly made up by the bulgogi. I liked the no-frills presentation: just spicy, marinated seafood and pork served with warm, white rice. With the first few bites, I noticed that Shikgoo knows spice. For masochists like me, it’s an oasis where sehr scharf is still taken seriously, to the dismay of my companion. Then there’s the marinade. Whatever mysterious Korean spices and sauces went into the making of our dish made two stomachs very happy, with its perfect balance of sweetness, sourness and saltiness. The sweet and tart rice wine complemented our meal nicely, so much so that we drank one bowl after another (yes, bowls) and finished the entire bottle. A final observation squid lovers will love ( – crickets – ) is that Shikgoo actually uses real squid, not the industrial white rubber crap that’s become way too common in many Asian restaurants.
A meal at Shikgoo is a trek for most, but one that’s totally worth it. The selection is great, the prices reasonable, and the experience unique. I already promised the waitress I’d be back to try dsongol, a dish I had never heard of which she highly recommended. I still have no idea what it is, but I can’t wait to try it.
*There’s also a Korean grocery section, which I didn’t get to see – a peril of closing-time dining.
Tip: Spare yourself a Fahrschein – the restaurant is closed on Sundays.
+49 30 85012045