옷살 (Otsal) – By Guest Contributing Editor – Swaroop Gandikota.
Let me make it easy for you – unless you are allergic to Indian food, this is a must visit place for every person. I am 100% certain you will come back to this place again, just to try their gigantic menu!! [SEE menu at end of this blog post] Just GO!
For those who really want to know what they get into and not let anything spoil their experience…. Read on:
Take exit 2 at Seoul National University station, 100 yards straight on you will find Otsal to your left. It’s in the basement. Before you enter the basement: picture this first – Orange Cap, Blue Cap and Yellow Cap. All the staff at Otsal wears caps – staff here perform specific tasks on the basis of the caps they wear.
Orang Cap: Takes the orders, explains you the menu, etc
Blue Cap: refill water, beverages, serves food, etc.
Yellow Cap: clears tables, empty utensils – generally the freshers.
The meticulous planning Otsal has put into engaging with their customers is something that you will experience all your time while you are feasting on the Indian Culinary delight on offer. Before you call out for “Yo-Gi-Yo” – they are there, they are constantly looking out for guests’ needs at the table, if they need any help or serving support.
Onto the food now: we ordered: Tandoori Chicken (Full), Madras Curry (Chicken), Kheema Curry (Lamb), Butter Masala (Seafood) and Biryani.
Tandoori Chicken: Chicken was tender, juicy and well cooked. It was brought fresh out of the tandoor and plated direct from the skewer right at the table. Perfect mix of herbs and spices to the tandoor masala ensured that the chicken had the flavors reach all the way till the bone. It is served with fresh salad, mint chutney, mayonnaise and sweet ginger pickle. The chicken itself is so very well balances with spices that one would not actually need any of the side chutneys – do try the sweet ginger chutney (red pickle: it’s got a unique flavor, something that we have not yet had in Seoul, I would call this one straight out of India). Strongly recommend for taste and experience.
Madras Curry (Chicken): This was my favorite, full of flavors – a little bit on the salty side, yes that is how most of Indian curries are – definitely more saltier that Korean cuisine, we also use hearty portions of lime / lemon to enhance the flavors. These will facilitate explosion of flavors as soon as you taste it, and like most south Indian curries Asafetida and curry leaves add an aromatic delight. All these ingredients ensure the right balance of flavors and taste. Strongly recommend it for flavor. Goes well with Roti / Naan and / or plain or jeera rice.
NOTE #1: Jeera rice is basmati rice tossed with ghee and cumin seeds. It’s an OFF-MENU item. Request it and they’ll know you came here to eat some Indian delights. It’s made to order so it’ll taste fresh and hot.
Kheema Curry (Lamb): A well done Lucknowi keema curry – goes well with Lamb more than chicken or any other meat. The flavors infused by ginger garlic paste, red chili powder, salt, turmeric, raw papaya, mint and yogurt with lamb mince and essential herbs and spices are all there right in front of you, best part is you can feel all of them – no flavor missed, we ordered our curry medium hot, perfect to enjoy the flavor. Strongly recommend for flavor and lamb mince. Goes well with Roti / Naan and / or plain or jeera rice.
Butter Masala (Seafood): Short of words – must try, the best butter masala curry I have had in Seoul so-far. Would recommend to try it with seafood (Shrimp) since that will ensure you are able to enjoy the flavors of this curry more than any other meat item.
Biryani (Lamb): This was a let-down – our expectations were set very high in view of the earlier items we ordered. We were hoping for an authentic biryani, what we got could be described at best as something close to a tawa pulao – don’t expect luckinowi or hyderabadi biryani here. I would instead request for Zeera rice to go with Dal Makhani.
We started off our order with Papad – you get fried papad’s (papadam) and not roasted / burnt papad: enhances the flavor substantially. Goes great with Beer as you look through the Menu (Food Manual ?).
NOTE #2: They acknowledge that they localize the taste. Request “DESI STYLE” when ordering to go full native Indian taste.
NOTE #3: They have a separate and extensive dedicated vegetarian menu. A lot of delicious yummy options in there.