09 December 2010
Dotori is a gem amongst the dross that surrounds Finsbury Park Tube. Now don't get me wrong, I've been coming to this part of the Seven Sisters Road for many decades to feed another of my obsessions, played down the road at Highbury and now New Highbury, but this is the sort of area where a pound shop is seen as up market. A lovely little wet fish shop lasted about six months, before being replaced by another tat shop, selling goods that have been pre-designed to fall apart half way through the first usage.
Set opposite the smoking tent for the Twelve Pins Pub (think the barn of a place from Once Were Warriors, but without the pathos), Dotori is a tiny place, that is always packed to the rafters. The reason is immediately clear: the food is terrific. A mixture of Japanese and Korean, with a sushi chef out front, and a band of Korean chefs out back.
Now I don't know my bibimbap from my bulgogi, but I do know excellent food. And the bibimbap here was excellent: on a cold December night, with the prospect of watching another nerve-wracking performance, full of skill and trickery, followed by over-ellaboration and being crap at the back, it was good to have something filling and hot (both heat and spice) inside.
We started out going Korean: sticky rice sticks, a vegetable pancake and some lovely deep fried oysters, which came with a nice hot chilli sauce and were sweet and spicy together. In fact, we ordered a lot of chilli-sauced food: chilli vegetable and squid, the aforementioned bibimbap (for those of you, like me, who didn't know what this is, it is a big hot bowl of rice, veg and, in our case, beef, together with a raw egg, that is mixed up at the table with chilli sauce, the super-hot bowl cooking everything together) and a tofu and kimchi dish. All were fantastically good, but the best was probably the Japanese dish that we had: we had gone totally Korean, but saw the mixed tempura and had to have it. Light batter, a plate growning with prawns and veg. Delicious.
Service is a bit hit and miss, but it is always friendly. The portions are enormous and the price the opposite. In fact, what is there not to like about this?
ps if you cannot get in here and want a quick snack before the game, there is a kebab place between the Twelve Pins and Lidl (I told you this was a classy part of town), that does some of the finest kebabs you'll find: go for the chilli rather than the garlic sauce though.