Triq Parisio, Sliema
Tel: 2707 5906

Food: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Ambience: 5/10
Value: 8/10
Overall: 7/10

The mounted zebra heads protruding from the walls have me slightly unnerved.

Bulgogi BapBulgogi Bap

You’re certainly not paying for frills here at unassuming Doma. Wipe down tables and wipe down walls, tiled to the sky, will embrace you at this Korean joint.  But it’s warm and welcoming and spotlessly spotless and the staff are keen. Chef Jay Lee moves quickly, serving up Korean cuisine and sushi at this hole in the wall tucked away in a godforsaken Sliema street. It’s strictly Korean cravings that we have. And we are not disappointed.

Any misgivings about faux taxidermy, and a howling television that blares boisterously at me, swiftly subside into complete abandon once the starter dishes arrive. They are a joy. Addictively brilliant is the squid and kimchi pancake, the Kimchi Jijimi.  Fried to a light golden colour and spongy, its frilled edges are crisped up and the right side of burnt. The flavours and textures are sensational. It’s at once all the sour and spice and red flush of the well-pickled kimchi that has been mixed into the batter; its fermented funk potent. The pancake is full of the crunch of still pert chopped cabbage and the gummy softness of the squid. I love it. We order another portion of it, just because.     

The deep-fried dumplings are plump, buxom little things. These delicately hand folded half-moons with their prettily pinched pleats call out to be devoured; their crispy, blistered skins affording the most satisfying crunch. It’s a crunch that melts into the searing juiciness of the minced chicken and vegetable innards. The dumplings get dunked in soy sauce for an extra kick. It’s gloriously smutty.             

Oh so comforting is the dumpling soup, mothering you with every soothing, steamy spoonful. Like a long, drawn-out hug it comes in a heaving bowlful of crazy comfort

Oh so comforting is the dumpling soup, mothering you with every soothing, steamy spoonful. Like a long drawn-out hug, it comes in a heaving bowlful of crazy comfort: a cloudy broth with a wild tangle of seaweed strands at its centre; cubes of ivory white tofu and shavings of shiitake mushroom bobbing about contentedly. Partially concealed by this foliage are the pert doughy dumplings, the same crimped crescents as before. Every mouthful is hot and sour moreishness, all umamified and kicky.  You just want to jump in and splosh about in it. I desist of course and graciously hoover it up; our kind waitress with napkins at the ready.

We already have extreme meal appreciation going on at this point. And because Veganuary is a positively preposterous word we move on to chicken and beef dishes.

Kimchi jijimiKimchi jijimi

The Korean fried chicken dish, Chi bap, is wonderful, with the hardest, crustiest, knobbliest, double-fried crunch I’ve ever got my teeth stuck into. A rather modern gastronomic addition, the very idea of fried chicken seems to have arrived on the Korean culinary scene in the late 70s. It is KFC of an altogether different variety – not a bearded colonel in sight. And, needless to say, infinitely light years apart. Doma’s KFC is shamelessly slathered with an electrifyingly red sweet-spicy sauce, that’s beyond sticky and absorbed into the crust without ever making it soggy. I crunch in. It’s insanely irresistible, lip-smackingly good chicken. And perfectly non-greasy. The meat is moist, the seasoning addictive. Within seconds I’m a Korean fried chicken convert.

There’s a fire in the compact open kitchen. It’s our Bulgogi bap going up in flames. Indeed, the Korean term bulgogi translates to ‘fire meat’. Doma’s interpretation of this classic Korean dish of barbecued beef is good. It’s not so much the bash of fire and smoke I anticipate - more a savoury-sweet stir-fry of thinly slivered meat; marinated and tender, nicely seared and curling at the edges; tossed through with tendrils of carrots, onion, scallions and a light scattering of toasted sesame seeds.  

There are a number of side dishes that accompany this and the KFC. Everything is fresh and vibrant. There are sticky, fluffy mounds of steamed white short grain rice.  A spicy cucumber salad is a pickle party of perfect proportions. It is the ideal accompaniment to the meat: crunchy, tangy, slightly sweet and full of the tingly heat of the red chilli pepper flakes.

There’s a crisp green salad that’s dressed with glugs of a semi-sweet, mayo-sesame oil amalgam. It’s a whoosh of serious scrumminess that commands this simple salad to be taken seriously. Traditional Korean potato salad is served. It’s a dome of mashed potato slapped onto the plate in one big, hefty scoop as if it were ice cream. There’s a lovely creamy texture to the mash, broken up by a scattering of crunchy freshness from diced cucumbers and carrots.

The Kimchi Ramen will have you breaking out in a sweat. It’s a smack of fire with deliriously hot, positively incendiary flavours coming from the kimchi. It shouts at you, it screams at you. It won’t stop screaming! The thin kimchi broth comes beefed up with a tangled, delicious mess of curly noodles, studded with scallions, julienned red pepper and carrots and the intensity of more ferociously fermented kimchi churned through it.

Mopping our brows we move on to the Japchae noodle dish. It’s like a breath of cool air after hours under a cruel summer sun. In stark contrast to the Kimchi Ramen, this is mildly flavoured; an encouraging bowlful of glass noodles made from sweet potato starch. Their uniquely gelatinous texture absorbs all the warm savouriness of the soy sauce and sesame oil they are slicked in, delicately balancing the savoury and the sweet. Ours is a vegetarian Japchae: the translucent ribbons of noodle are tossed through with everything from baby spinach to shiitake mushroom slivers and crunchy julienned carrots – all crowned with the crunch of toasted sesame seeds. We slurpjoyously. It’s a light and wholesome dish, almost as comforting as the dumpling soup, but not quite.  

We don’t stay for dessert because there’s none to be had. Chunky slabs of fresh pineapple are served with the bill, punctured with tooth picks. While enthusiastically refreshing, I’m disappointed not to have tried a Korean sweet something. Notwithstanding, this is a small restaurant with heart that lets its food do the talking. We leave Doma quite generally happy. I’ve even warmed to the utterly mad zebra heads. I’d happily go back tomorrow.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support Us