Irvine’s Diamond Jamboree has some great Asian restaurants along with horrible parking. Worth the hassle is Urban Seoul, a unique Korean fusion eatery.
Do you ever look on Yelp for hours trying to figure out what to eat? I know I have. I get bored of the same old burger and taco restaurant and can never decide on something new.
Luckily, I came across Urban Seoul.
I knew I found my next restaurant obsession when I saw they served Korean-Mexican fusion dishes including a Kimchi Pancake Quesadilla, Chicken Katsu Sandwhich, Gogi Slider, and Chorizo Kimchi Fried Rice. Unless you are in Seoul right now, you probably have never heard of any of these dishes.
I think I would best describe the decor of Urban Seoul as, well, urban with a modern and industrial feel. The inside was designed with dark colors, cool artwork, metal seats, exposed lighting, a concrete floor, and wooden paneling on the bar. Other than a few stacked kimchi pots, you would have no idea that the restaurant served Korean food based solely on the decor. The decor felt hip with music playing in the background, like something you would find in Los Angeles, not Irvine.
The small restaurant had an open concept with a few tables to the right side of the door with a large bar on the left. I felt more like I was in a bar or diner instead of a restaurant. Just behind the bar was an open kitchen where you could watch the chefs at work.
The bar looked like it could fit about 12 people with four circular metal tables and a family style wooden table. I really couldn’t see more than 25 people fitting inside the restaurant at the same time. Also, I was not a fan of the metal seats and small tables. The metal seats were anything but comfortable.
I did love how all the chefs and servers were young, hip, and friendly. I felt like I was welcome at Urban Seoul.
What sets Urban Seoul apart from most other restaurants is its menu.
You will find unique Korean-Mexican fusion twists on familiar items including burgers, sliders, sandwiches, and quesadillas mixed with less familiar items such as kimchi, fried rice, udon, gogi, and more.
In addition to the regular menu, Urban Seoul offers happy hour specials on food and drinks along with daily specials that change. On my visit, the daily specials include Gogi Taquitos ($4.00), BBQ Pork Belly Pizza ($8.95), Pork Belly Chimichanga ($9.95), and Gogi Fries with Gogi Gravy ($7.95).
I decided to throw my diet out the door and start off with the Loaded Fries ($7.95). Order this dish and you will be rewarded with a wonderful concoction of criss cut waffle fries loaded with spicy pork, nacho cheese sauce, green onions, pickled jalapeños, queso fresco, pickled red onions, and cilantro.
I was surprised how much was packed onto one plate. The Loaded Fries are perfect for those looking to share an appetizer.
I’m a big fan of criss cut fries, the same kind you will find at Carl’s Jr or Chick-fil-A. These fries are no different. They were crispy, hot, and perfectly salty though a little on the greasy side.
The thinly sliced spicy pork was flavorful, smokey, and slightly sweet with a perfect char on the outside. Only downside was that there was not enough pork and I could have used a little more heat.
The pickled red onions and jalapeños added a great sour flavor to each bite along with a kick of heat.
The most interesting part of the dish was the cheese sauce. Their cheese sauce was simply the same strange bright yellow and rich nacho cheese sauce that you would find at any movie theater or baseball game. Usually, I hate this type of cheese, but for some odd reason, it seemed to work well with the criss cut fries and all of the other ingredients.
The Loaded Fries had it all: sweet, savory, smokey, salty, rich, spicy, crunchy, and sour.
Too many strange flavors going on at once? Overwhelming, rich, and heavy? Maybe. I thought it tasted great, but that’s for you to decide.
Next up were the Chicken Drumettes ($7.50), made with crispy fried chicken covered in a sweet and spicy sauce and topped with pickled daikon and green onions.
The skin of the chicken drumettes was crispy and crunchy on the outside, even being covered in a sweet, sticky, and slightly spicy sauce. The sauce reminded me of gochujang, a common spicy Korean sauce.
On the inside, the chicken was juicy, though slightly overcooked but not enough to be a deal breaker.
The chicken drumettes were topped with a mixture of black sesame seeds, green onions, and pickled daikon. All three of the toppings added extra texture and crunch to each bite of the chicken. I also enjoyed how the toppings created a different pop of color from the otherwise bright red sauce covering the chicken drumettes.
For the main entree, I went with the Kalbi Burger ($7.95).
When I ordered the burger, I missed the part about the burgers being sliders. When the sliders arrived, I thought I had ordered two burgers since the burgers each could have been their own entree. I thought this was a great value for the price. Make sure you come hungry.
Inside the bun was a marinated beef and pork patty, American cheese, lettuce, tomato, caramelized onions, kimchi, and a secret sauce all packed into a morning bun.
The burger was cooked well, juicy, and rich in flavor thanks to the addition of pork. Pork makes everything better. The marinade on the burger was on the sweet side. After a few bites, I wanted more heat and less sweet.
I really enjoyed the taste and soft texture of the bun which was lightly toasted on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. Even though I enjoy these type of buns, I had a few problems. First, the meat to bread ratio was off. There was just too much bread and not enough meat. Second, the bun could not handle the juicy marinade and the sauce of the burger. The bun became too soggy by the time I was finished. Finally, the taste of the bun was sweet. It was just too overpowering with a sweet marinade on the burger and a sweet bun.
The simple yet delicious secret sauce reminded me of the sauce you would get in a Big Mac, with some Thousand Island dressing and Dijon mustard.
The Kalbi Burger, though on the sweeter side, had great flavors of salty and sweet. I do wish that the marinade was a bit more savory. I would also love to see an onion or something crunchy inside the burger to give it some texture other than the soft meat and soft bun.
I was told kimchi was mixed in with the meat, but I would have never known. It was undetectable. Maybe next time I can ask to have the kimchi placed on top of the meat for that much needed crunchy texture.
When I arrived, the restaurant was mostly empty. A man who was standing behind the counter stopped what he was doing to come take my order. He was friendly and I had no problems with ordering or waiting for service.
After my order was taken, the man went back behind the counter to continue making and preparing food. Since the place was empty, service was pretty quick, but I could see how service could suffer on a busy weekend or during lunch hours.
Since I can only comment on my service, all I can say was that it was quick, friendly, and correct.
If you have never experienced Korean-Mexican fusion food before, then I highly recommend you give Urban Seoul a try. Their food might be on the sweet side, but almost all of their dishes are unique, leaving your taste buds wanting more.
With such an interesting menu at Urban Seoul, I can say without a doubt that I will be returning very shortly to sample some of their other menu items such as the tacos, elote, tortas, and sandwiches.
- Unique Korean-Mexican fusion dishes
- Friendly service
- Cool modern decor
- Happy Hour specials
- Great selection of craft beers
- Limited and uncomfortable seating
- Service can often be slow
- Parking lot is often a hassle/li>