Modu, Birmingham

I’m going to do the crass thing here and bring up money straight from the off.  Its not something I would usually do, though this is exceptional in circumstance.  Fifteen English pounds.  It doesn’t buy you much. A nice pair of socks, a day riding London’s underground, or maybe the cat food for the week.  Three pints of beer or a decent bottle of wine.  In terms of food, some edible cardboard from Dominoes about covers the potential extent for misery for the amount.  In our bent at the knees and hunched over modern society, fifteen quid is simply not enough money to eat well.  Unless you happen to be at Modu, tucking into a four course Korean meal of crotch grabbing, up on the toes with one arm aloft brilliance.


To experience the food here you first have to find the place.  Good luck with that.  Aim for the bit of Hurst Street where the flamboyance ends and turn on Google maps – that’s as much as you are getting from me.  Once in, take place in the small dining room by the courtyard with its white washed bricks and let them deal with the magic.  First up are dumplings; a flat seafood one for my chum and two pert vegetable gyoza type things for me.  We wolf down both quickly without any real comment other than just how tasty they are.


Witchcraft was at play for our next course, either than or an expertise in fermentation and a gentle hand at cooking.  Sweet potato transformed into translucent noodles, woven with peppers and strips of beef and topped with sesame seeds.  For this dish we are given a side bowl of kimchi and told to mix it in.  We do as we are told.  She is right; the kimchi brings everything to life, the fermented cabbage adding a crunch and some fire to the polite noodle dish.  It is both elegant and macho; self-assured and authentic. It is at this point, two courses in, that we know we are in safe hands.


Chicken wings next.  Not just any chicken wings, but the greatest wings in all of Chickdom.  Wings so good that Paul McCartney named a band after them.  You may have guessed that we liked the wings.  Six jointed and rolled bad boys of the poultry world, coated in soy and honey and sixteen other ingredients (I know this.  We asked.), before being cooked to a crisp exterior.  These are the best chicken wings in Birmingham.  My dining companion, Jim, commenting that should sell them by the bag load.  And Jim is right, they really should.


We finish off the four course bonanza with a stir fry type thing which was two parts hot and one part delicious.   It was all there; the meat and veg correctly cooked, little side bowls of more fermented stuff to add in to it, but it never quite hits the heights of before.  There is only so much joy you can take from a stir fry and rice, after all.  The chef comes out and presents some homemade chilli sauce that she really should bottle up and sell with the chicken wings.



The owner talks to us of a love for traditional Korean food and a want to feed people well.  If that’s her intention then she has pretty much nailed it on the head.  It was an often enthralling lunch where a steady hand in the kitchen was matched with fermentation and curing that when combined creates something truly special.  Nothing feels faux, everything is there for a reason.  And the bill, twenty quid with a bottle of Korean beer is extraordinary value.  Modu is special kind of place, destined to be a cult hero in Birmingham.


Toppoki, Birmingham

Toppoki is a Korean restaurant in Chinatown. It is a simple space of neutral colours, wall murals, and plenty of natural light.  There are hot plates built into the tables and a view into an open kitchen, which from our end, showed an alarming usage of a microwave.  I know nothing of Korean food so the menu is a beguiling mix of excitement and fear to a control freak like myself.  There are dupbap and bibimbap, whatever they may be, amongst more familiar kimchi and curries.


The reality is that its nothing out of the norm.  Maybe here is not the greatest example of Korean food, but everything has a familiar feel, not to far removed from the cuisine of Japan, or China.  The chicken cutlet curry, for example, was identical to a katsu curry at Wagamama, though I happen to prefer the version at the Japanese chain.  Here the meat was a little tough and the sauce more one-dimensional.  The side bowl of kimchi – that wonderful fermented cabbage full of crunch and heat – added the missing character.



Bibimbap transpires to be a stir fry of meat and vegetables, served with another mound of rice.  Its decent stuff with a real chilli kick.  Dupbap seemed remarkably similar, this time with a vegetable croquette that contained mozzarella.  Mozzarella in Korean food, whoever would have thought it.  Whatever the provenance of the original recipe, it would be the best thing we ate all day.  Gelatinous and with a real depth of flavour.


Take the four dishes at face value and you have somewhere that does fairly tasty food at a fair price point.  Except it doesn’t end there.  The food turns up whenever they feel like it, which, in our case, saw two mains almost twenty five minutes apart.  No apology or explanation, just take it as it is.  Now call me old fashioned, but I quite like to eat at the same time as the others on the table, and I’m not best pleased at the idea of my food going cold purely so I can do so.  Put simply, the food at Toppoki is not worth the wait.


Topokki Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato