Last year, Eric Christopher Ehler, a chef working at San Francisco’s Serpentine restaurant, took a trip to South Korea, opening his eyes to the cuisine of his ancestors. (Ehler was adopted and raised in the Midwest.)

He came back inspired to create food that had the taste of Korea. It wasn’t going to be authentic Korean food, but a mix of both worlds, probably like how a lot of Asian Americans feel cooking in the United States. Chef Ehler started a pop-up called Seoul Patch, serving lunch at Rocketfish. But tonight he had a rare dinner pop-up service at the relatively new Mission bar Dear Mom.

Grilled head on prawns ($12) served over green garlic fried rice

I checked out the Seoul Patch pop-up, in the very hipster Dear Mom bar, and while the menu had some sprinkling of Korean references like kim chi (of course) and bulgogi, it was more like a blend of cuisine from several Asian countries, like the bahn mi (Vietnamese sandwich) and ramen (Japanese noodle soup).

The Seoul Patch ramen ($12) was supposed to get its Korean influence with the addition of bulgogi, the thinly sliced marinated beef. But I don’t know if it was missing or I just didn’t have enough to even notice it because I don’t recall eating any bulgogi, although the ramen was still satisfying with its rich broth, braised greens and a whole soft-boiled egg that nearly exploded with fluid yolk as I bit into it.

Chef Eric Ehler hopes to tap into his Korean roots with Seoul Patch

The short rib dumplings ($9) reminded me of Chinese won tons, and the side of wok roasted cauliflower ($5) was tasty and representative of California eating, but didn’t blend in any Korean influences.

Seoul Patch, especially in the Dear Mom space with billiard tables and video games, was a fun pop-up to check out. But if Chef Ehler really wants to connect with his Korean roots, I hope he digs deeper and brings out more of the Korean flavors in this mish-mash of Asian-American food.

The beer selection at Dear Mom went well with Chef Ehler's homestyle Asian dishes

Seoul Patch ramen with braised greens and a soft-boiled egg

A rare dinner service for Seoul Patch

Wok roasted cauliflower, both white and purple

Prepping the bahn mi ($10), which was filled with pork belly

The new Dear Mom offers drink, bar bites and billiards

4 Responses to A Chef Looks for His Roots in this Korean Pop-Up

  1. Sandy says:

    The short rib dumplings and ramen look delicious but can definitely imagine the authenticity of real Korean food missing in those dishes. Still looks tasty, though!

  2. Caldwell says:

    It’s Asian fusion. You know how you don’t *like* Asian fusion, even though you’ve tried it over and over? Well, you probably won’t love Seoul Patch, either.

    You like green onion pancakes? We got them, with bacon! And mayo! And tonkatsu sauce! What, is that over the top? Did we slather on too many things, and now you’ve got an oversauced dish that’s neither fish nor fowl? Wow, perhaps there’s something to be said for Korean tastes in Korean food.

    It’s just disappointing. We’re waiting for the first really good Korean place in San Francisco and instead we get yet another hipster attempt to do fusion. And fusion never works.

    • Ben Ben says:

      I didn’t order the green onion pancake because I thought I was eating a lot already for one person. That does sound like a lot of sauce. … I think there’s something to good Korean fusion if there’s at least a flavor that makes you think of Korean food. Right now it’s probably too unfocused.

  3. Carolyn Jung says:

    You had me at short rib dumplings! Seriously, I don’t need anything more than that to be sold. 😉