To a high school student, the term "2.0" might mean a "C" grade average; in the context of restaurants, "2.0" references the sophomore effort of an establishment. The opening of the first Urban Seoul in Irvine's Diamond Jamboree plaza presented the notion that Korean cuisine (if we're overanalyzing the name) could be more than traditional panchan or hotteok. It could be familiar, yet modern. In the kitchen of Kacy Jun, we're talking tapas and borderless possibilities.
A couple of concepts in the plaza have already folded and been replaced by a coffee bar and crawfish shack, but Seoul's fan base grew beyond the confines of their modest space. It was time to raise it to the next level. They not only kept the second spot close to home, but secured it in the mother of OC outdoor malls: the Irvine Spectrum.
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Sheltered patio seating and a generous dining room gave way to a larger menu selection, like elote or Wagyu loco moco skillets ideal for sharing. In addition, they took on a modest beer, wine and sake list, complete with a couple of soju-based cocktails. This is where we encountered our refresher.
Yokaichi Mugi Soju is the primary component in our tall glass of cool. A controversial ingredient in this column, this particular Japanese distilled spirit is made from a rice barley fermented low and slow. Chilled and blended, Urban Seoul believes they are the only ones in the county offering this treat. We were content, slurping away at our frosty alternative in this oasis of consumerism.
Urban Seoul 2.0 is located at 414 Spectrum Center Dr, Irvine, (949) 727-1900; www.urban-seoul.com.