Pour It On!
Two beverage pros pair drinks with popular Korean dishes
With diners seeking out bolder new flavors, Korean fare continues its push into the forefront. We tapped two top beverage professionals who work at upscale Korean-owned-and-operated restaurants to pair signature dishes with a variety of drinks.
Victoria James, beverage director at New York steakhouse Cote, boasts many accolades, including being named to Forbes and Zagat’s "30 Under 30," and Food & Wine's "2018 Sommelier of the Year."
Photo credit: Dan Dry Photography
Beef barbecue bulgogi with lettuce wraps and red pepper paste (ssamjang):
- James: Banyuls is fortified wine, a little leaner than port with some residual sugar that goes nice with bulgogi, but is savory and can bring salinity to red pepper paste. It’s served slightly chilled and goes well with savory foods in an unexpected way.
- Stewart: I picked a beer, Off Color Apex Predator, from Chicago. It's a farmhouse-style saison ale that's naturally fermented yeast, fruity but not sweet, a little wheaty and viscous. I like it for this because the lettuce has a nice crunch, but a little heat from the ssam and spice from bulgogi, and it has a little sweetness that I like with all spicy foods.
Pork mandoo (Korean dumpling) in anchovy broth:
- James: Champagne! Having a still wine with it can be tricky. With heavy anchovy or dashi broth, having brut nature or extra brut is searing and fresh.
- Stewart: I'm going with a crisp, lager-style beer like Lucky Buddha, an Asian-style lager from China that has a bit of light hops, so it's sharp enough that it'll pair well with the rich flavor of the broth.
Korean short ribs (kalbi) with chimichurri, crispy shallots and Napa cabbage:
- James: I like Royal Tokaji because of the residual sugar and richness. Any reds will seem sour next to fruit juice marinade. You think red meat, you think red wine. But it’s soaked in fruit juice and it’ll taste sour. I like fortified wine, and tokaji is able to match the sweetness and has some power.
- Stewart: I was leaning toward a white wine because I like white wine and chimichurri together. But short ribs are sort of fatty, so I'm going with a big, tannic cabernet. It needs something like a California cab that has acid, big tannin structure and oaky jamminess to it to cut through the fattiness.
- James: Ancestral method sparkling wine like a pét-nat with some bubble, residual sugar and funk. The sweetness offsets the funkiness of the kimchi, and the texture from the bubbles helps break up the power of the kimchi on the palate.
- Stewart: Moscato d'Asti. Going back to having some spice and pepper: I like how the small bubbles in the moscato mimics the slight fermentation and frizzante of kimchi. If you eat a whole bowl, it starts to feel carbonated. It's funky and the flavor pairs really well.
- James: Beaujolais cru, chilled. These two are a good pairing because bibimbap is a staple rice dish and beaujolais is a crushable wine. Cru has freshness, great acidity and it’s the perfect thing. It’s an everyday staple and you don’t have a lot of things that get in the way like tannin, funk or super ripeness.
- Stewart: I'm going with Alsatian gewürztraminer. It has a little residual sugar and the dish has egg, vegetables and a bit of spice, but also fairly light. Gewürztraminer will be on the crisp side and won’t overwhelm vegetables.