I am glad to say that I have finally had it. I have had the best meal in Rochester.
It was better than any fancy, expensive multi-course dining experience that has come before it. Better than any of the many casual pasta, gourmet burger or wood fire pizza places around. Even better than, I’m sad to say, a giant garbage plate with all the fixings after a full day of fasting in anticipation. It was wonderful. Let me tell you about it.
Firstly, I’ve heard quite a bit about the importance of location in deciding whether or not to eat at a restaurant. It is often something to be wary of if said place is on a busy street or intersection or in an otherwise easy to find location. This is because it is possible for a restaurant to stay in business simply because of the fortunate location instead of the quality its food.
Conversely, if a restaurant is holed up in a shack far away from the eye of day to day commuters it is often an indicator that this restaurant serves better food, since it has to rely on this superior food and word of mouth to stay in business. Sodam, or Korean House, fits this mold.
Nestled away in the corner of some non-descript looking warehouses in Henrietta, Sodam is not the kind of restaurant that one accidentally stumbles upon. Despite the drab looking exterior however Sodam is sleek, clean and welcoming.
Upon arriving, we were given hot glasses of corn-based tea and small dishes filled with various treats, which I immediately began nibbling on. They included kimchi, a staple of Korean cuisine that is a spicy dish made of seasoned and fermented cabbages and other vegetables. Then came a dish with slightly salty pickled sprouts and soybeans, a dish made of what seemed to be thinly sliced and perfectly tender squid and seasoning similar to kimchi, a salad of cucumber and seaweed and a refreshing mixture of cucumbers and sprouts, all of these which were presented cold.
As an appetizer we ordered the kimchi pancakes and shrimp dumplings. The pancakes arrived on our table with their crispy golden crust still sizzling. The batter was perfectly tender, and the outside was light and crunchy. The tangy snap of the kimchi in every bite only punctuated the perfection of the dish. The skin of the dumplings were light and crispy and they were the perfect balance of sweet and salty.
I panicked as I started to become full and stopped myself before my pork bulgogi, or barbecued pork, arrived. It was a wise decision.
The pork came on an extremely hot metal plate, so hot in fact that the dish was still cooking as it reached the table causing little flecks of sauce and oil to continue to crackle and sputter. Still, it looked amazing, with the lightly sautéed vegetables weaving in and out of thickly cut, fatty slabs of pork which must have come from the belly region, all slathered in a thick but not gloppy sauce made of hot chilies and what seemed to be a soybean paste base.
The vegetables were cooked to perfection, tender and flavorful but not pulverized out of delivering a lively crunch when I bit into them. The pork itself was impeccable -— tender but thick with plenty of fat, it was the pinnacle of porky goodness. The sauce was fairly spicy, and I began to sweat after a few minutes of vigorous eating. It was not overwhelming, and it didn’t overpower the other magnificent flavors in the dish. This sauce, by the way, is not even slightly related to the stuff that they serve in barbecue joints all over the country. This is its own entity entirely, and one that’s worth experiencing.
One of the few things I gleaned from BCS 110 was that after only a few minutes of tasting one particular flavor, the brain becomes acclimated to said taste and the flavor becomes less intense. This is why it is possible to become bored with eating only one type of food so quickly. One can combat this terrible neuronal defect, however, by constantly switching flavors every few minutes, even for only a brief time.
Korean cuisine, including Sodam restaurant, seem to have had this concept in mind while creating a dining experience. Throughout the meal, when I felt like I was becoming accustomed to one flavor for too long, one reach over to the small plates of cold fixings. This was all it took for me to reinvigorate my taste buds and experience the complex and delicious flavors of my dishes all over again.
Ultimately my trip to Sodam filled me up with the best Asian cuisine I’ve ever had in Rochester. By the end of the meal, not only did I receive highly addictive sampling dishes, stultifyingly good kimchi pancakes and ethereal, orgasmic pork, but a whole unique and craving-inducing experience that I plan on reliving over and over again -— at least until my arteries fail, or I die of a sodium overdose.
Ford is a member of
the class of 2013.