Amongst a flurry of Chinese restaurants in Birmingham lies a small but quirky Korean restaurant. I was first introduced to Topokki several years ago and it instantly became one of my favourite places to dine, so much so that I’d happily drive one hour to Birmingham just to sit down for a good meal.
Atmosphere is something that can make or break a restaurant experience for me, upon entering you’re greeted by smiling staff who promptly ask how many are in your party and if you’ve booked a reservation, if you haven’t booked they’ll do their best to seat you, even if this means sitting at a table normally meant for six people. For some, this may be a problem, but for me, this isn’t a problem. I’d happily sit with strangers as social interaction is something I enjoy but do not partake in enough, so I welcome this as it would make for a richer dining experience. As you look around the restaurant you’ll notice people of all ages, sexes, and ethnicities all happily interacting and enjoying the food presented to them. It isn’t a loud restaurant and by no means quiet, it’s somewhere where you can go have a serious chat or kick back and enjoy good food with good people. They offer a variety of traditional Korean dishes and their own special dishes which tantalise taste buds, and offer lovers of spice something new and interesting to try.
Before we talk about the food we should really talk about the service and the restaurant itself. Unlike most dining experiences in and around the Chinese quarter of Birmingham, Topokki skips the traditional decor and combines a rustic, up-cycle feel with plain walls and artwork with cultural references. You have standard wooden table and chairs and chopsticks, forks and spoons are within arms reach. The room is lit by stylish lamps that hang from the ceiling.
Having been multiple times, I can safely say that the staff are all friendly, polite, and very knowledgeable about each and every dish they serve. I once sat beside a couple who were first timers at the restaurant and new to Korean food, the manager personally spent 10 to 15 minutes explaining various dishes. He went into detail about the ingredients, the level of spice, even down to what utensils would be best to use. The level of care and knowledge in the food and service is exactly what keeps bringing me back.
So back to the reason I was at Topokki. Over the past few weeks, I’ve picked Dean Cueson up whenever we have decided to go riding and one day he, unfortunately, left his debit card at home. So, me being the good friend that I am picked up his tab. As a token of he appreciated he offered to pay for dinner one day, so I suggested Topokki. Lucky for me it also happened to be a favourite of his too.
Now onto the food! I am a big fan of Asian cuisine and I swear on my personal view that Pho is the greatest dish ever created. I love East Asian food so much that I plan to travel to South Korea this year for the Seoul purpose (see what I did there?) of eating food. I opted for Jeyuk BokkEum – a spicy fried pork dish with vegetables, and rice. The presentation was excellent, a dome of rice was presented in front of me with my spicy pork besides it and a small dollop of mixed leafed salad. Simple, but very appealing in my eyes. The pork was tender, juicy and had no lack of flavour, the spices were the right temperature, not overwhelming, but also not mild. Portion sizes are not overly gracious, if you have a large appetite it might be worth ordering a side like I did, but for the price you are paying at £7.50for this dish is a steal and you’re getting a good amount for what you pay.
Now onto my second dish, which I shall class as a side. When placing my order I remembered eating an incredible dish of spicy and juicy chicken, but my memory wasn’t with me that day so I asked the young waitress who was serving us if she could help joggle my memory by poorly describing it to her. In the end, she pointed me in the direction of a side dish of sweet and spicy chicken breasts. I can tell you now, I would have married that girl right there if I could have. Her recommendation was incredibly tasty! The only way I can describe the chicken was Juicy, tender, sweet, spicy, and oh so good. It might be the best chicken I have eaten and it was at that point that I felt like I should have ordered more, but unfortunately for me, it would interfere with the strict diet I am currently enduring (more on that in a future post).
But Chris, what about drinks? On a normal day, I’d have a bottle of Asahi with my meal, there is something about that beer I love, it goes down so well and has a slight wheat taste to it. However, on this occasion, I decided to go for refillable green tea, something only few restaurant offer. One thing to note is if you are only planning to have one cup of green tea, £1.60 might seem a little steep, but for those who enjoy the drink and have room for more than one cup, you’ll be happy with the refillable option.
So what do I think of Topokki? I think it is pretty obvious that I hold this place in such high regards. From the incredibly helpful and friendly staff, the food, the atmosphere, and the price I believe that it is a must-visit restaurant. Oh, before I sign off it is worth mentioning that they also serve sushi Tuesday to Sunday that is freshly prepared by a specialist sushi chef.
Monday – Friday 12:00 to 22:00
Saturday – 12:00 to 23:00
Sunday – 12:00 to 9:00