Cosy Korean corner that's open all hours
Il Bon Ji: Shop C, G/F Times Tower, 392-407 Jaffe Road, Wan Chai. Phone 838-0239 Hours: 11 am-4 am. Set lunch midday-3 pm. Decor: Plain and functional. Cuisine: Korean. Clientele: Varied, including Koreans. Service: Functional. Reservations: Not necessary.Cellular phones per table count: One in four. Smoking policy: No non-smoking section. Overall value for money (out of five): 21/2 bowls here please BESIDES the most astonishing opening hours, there is another surprise at IL Bon Ji: its charming, neighbourhood feel.
It is so neighbourly that in one corner, what started off as a table for two soon became three, and ended up with four people. Elsewhere, a cosy foursome was joined by another couple.
That they knew each other was assumed rather than proven, but sitting down for a dinner that had not only been ordered but had already arrived, looked like a good idea - especially if you don't know what to do in a Korean restaurant.
Once the waitress had brought a dozen little side dishes - all those sesame, garlic and chilli things - the table began, thankfully, to look like everyone else's, and the menu was not too much of a mystery.
Inside the front cover was the list of barbecue bits and pieces; an obvious place to start. And since the rather sophisticated barbecue contraption was already making its presence felt by blocking all leg-room, there was no sense trying to ignore it.
Ox tongue might have tasted better if it had not sizzled to a commentary on how ox tongues have to be skinned before the meat can be sliced up, but even sweet talk wouldn't have deflected from the toughness. Might it be better char-grilled? Well, it wasn't.
The eel looked as if it had already been cooked before it hit the barbecue, but the first couple of pieces off the hot plate were still cold in the middle. Don't barbecue unless you know what you are doing seemed to be the message. Or wait for the waitress.
Then it was on to a hearty stone pot's worth of rice with vegetables and raw egg, all crispy on the bottom and perfect for sticking to the teeth. The spring onion pancake looked like a Yorkshire pudding gone wrong, but depending on how you feel about these things, tasted more interesting.
Under normal circumstances slices of orange is an unlikely dessert to wax lyrical over, but it was a treat to come across something so cool, so fresh and juicy.
Lo and behold, little sticks of gum with green wrappers arrived with the bill, under $200 a head, including a couple of OB beers.
Was it a good dinner? Clearly it was not a bargain, but walking towards Causeway Bay past Banana Leaf queues and restaurants with red plastic upholstery and names like Piggy Pizza, it had been a bit of a find.