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The Bounty of Dadami

For an evening at this Korean restaurant, come hungry, and with friends.

By the time the foot-long boat of sashimi arrived on our table at Dadami, I had already counted 12 other dishes that preceded it: delicate, tempura-battered sardines meant to be eaten whole; grilled squid in a smoky, red gojuchang sauce on a sizzling comal; scallion pancakes cooked to a golden brown on both sides; an entire crab, served cool and cut into easy-to-eat pieces in that same tangy gojuchang; hiyayakko, cold tofu that looked like savory flan in its little dish; and dusty gray whelks that offered up a chewy, briny piece of meat once you pried it forcefully from the spiral shell. And now, here was an entire boat of raw fish.

My three friends and I regarded it with awe. When we'd ordered the $150 "deluxe sashimi" meal at Dadami, we knew to expect a lot of courses — our friendly Korean waitress had explained carefully to us that the meals are priced by number of people (a "small" is $79 and feeds two to three people, while a $300 "Dadami large" feeds ten to 12) — but we didn't expect this. The boat fairly glittered with broad, fat slices of raw salmon amidst a field of shimmering, barely pink flounder. The two ends of the boat were decorated with spirals of snowy radish and roses made of thin carrot strips. And in the middle were arranged three scoops of glistening seafood.

Shiny, gunmetal-gray discs of fresh, raw sea cucumber sat inside a pearlescent shell, flanked on either side by boisterously orange slices of sea squirt served inside its own fire-colored spiny shell. The shell of the sea squirt — or hoya — resembles a fruit so much that it's often also called "sea pineapple," although it tastes anything but sweet. Like the sea cucumber, sea squirt is prized less for flavor than it is for texture.

Behold an entire boat of Korean-style sashimi.
Katharine Shilcutt
Behold an entire boat of Korean-style sashimi.

Location Info

Map

Dadami

1927 N. Gessner Road
Houston, TX 77080

Category: Restaurant > Korean

Region: Outer Loop - NW

Details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Small sashimi dinner: $75
Deluxe dinner: $150
Sashimi salad: $7.99
Fried squid: $7.99
Soju: $14.99

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BLOG POST: Sashimi, Korean-Style: Hwe at Dadami

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Texture is something we don't think much about in Western cuisine. We like things to be creamy, sure. We like our steaks to have a little give to them. Overall, however, we like our food to be simple and unchallenging when it comes to texture. We complain when things are chewy or glutinous or inappropriately viscous. But in Asian cuisines, texture is valued just as much as flavor.

The Korean-style sashimi we were enjoying that night at Dadami is called hwe, and it's a veritable festival of textures, allowing you to experience the gloriously subtle differences between the gentle give of squid and the tough, rubbery bites of sea squirt, the bouncy flesh of the creamy whelk and the almost jaw-breakingly chewy sea cucumber, which tastes like the brackish water off Galveston and floods your entire mouth with the taste of the sea.

"It tastes like drowning," said my friend Rafael from across the table as he chewed his way through one small piece. "In a good way," he finished, as a vague smile crept across his face.

The flounder in the sashimi boat gave way to another sensory experience — it reminded me of an afternoon last year I spent with fisherman Jim ­Naismith on his boat off Aransas Pass, when I got to try just-caught bonito. ­Naismith cleaned the tuna in the Japanese ike jime style, then carved its flesh like sashimi before spritzing it gently with fresh lime juice. I'll never forget the singularly crunchy texture of the bonito that day; it was unlike any raw fish I'd had in a Japanese restaurant.

But it's exactly how the flounder felt in my mouth at Dadami, and I crunched through each buttery yet firm piece with glee as memories of slicing through the water on a trawler came flooding back to me. Before long, we'd polished off the fish in the sashimi boat between the four of us, and we sat back in our chairs, stuffed and self-satisfied.

"That was a damn good meal," I remarked, pouring another small glass of soju and reflecting on the demanding, curious feel of that sea cucumber. Imagine everyone's surprise when the sashimi boat was removed and ten more courses hit the table.
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I should have come to Dadami more well-prepared that night, perhaps with at least four more people. Dinners here are not for the easily fatigued or the unadventurous. By the end of our "deluxe sashimi" dinner, we'd enjoyed more than 30 courses of food.

After the sashimi came another huge boat full of fried fish and head-on shrimp; platters of creamed corn with peppers; Korean-style shrimp fried rice with a raw egg on top that cooked as you stirred it in; sweet-and-sour chicken; banchan-style buckwheat noodles, seaweed salad and kimchi; and even four giant, dark orange bowls of tart jjigae, a sour soup made from the bones of the flounder we'd just eaten a few courses prior. For dessert, there was fresh cantaloupe and adorably tiny Korean yogurt drinks ("Good for your digestion," our waitress said as she set them down, tiny straws poked into each one).

This is why I simultaneously love and fear Korean restaurants: the sheer quantity of food. In Western restaurants, lagniappe is considered just that: a little something extra, nice when you get it but never expected. In Korean restaurants, the concept of lagniappe is built into your meal: You will almost always receive an array of banchan, small dishes meant to be shared as appetizers among your tablemates, in addition to your meal — so come hungry and come with a bunch of people. It's the Korean way.

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6 comments
micwcs
micwcs

Went there for lunch. Needless to say, we'll be back for sure with more people.Pictures to follow soon.

paval
paval

excellent review. sounds like a really great experience even though its a lot of food. drumming up one of my groups of crazy fish eaters to go there. will prepare them properly with a two days of fasting before going though.

del.martinis
del.martinis topcommenter

We are so going there, since lately, it's been everything Korean...from their fried chicken to Kimchi on grits and friend rice!  Thanks for a fascinating review!

Mai Pham
Mai Pham topcommenter

You didn't eat the live octopus?!!

kshilcutt
kshilcutt moderator editor

 @Mai Pham Sadly, no. It remains one of my greatest regrets in life.

 
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