Monday, April 30, 2018

Gino's vs. Brick Oven

Yesterday, after the movie, JW, the boy, and I cabbed over to Brick Oven Pizzeria for dinner after our long walk from Apgujeong to my apartment at Daecheong Station. JW had left it up to me to determine what we were going to do for dinner, and since I didn't shop for hamburger components, I suggested we hit Brick Oven, which had been recommended to me by a coworker. There may be more than one branch of Brick Oven in Seoul, but the one we went to was close to Gangnam Station. While in the taxi, JW looked the restaurant up on his phone and saw it had been widely complimented by visitors both Korean and foreign, which I took to be a good sign. "Authentic New York pizza," the reviews said.

The pizzeria turned out to be tucked in a neighborhood that was a few side streets away from the main street. We left the taxi, walked a few meters over to the entrance, and went up to the second floor. The welcoming smell of pizza crust and tomato sauce hit me immediately, and I was encouraged: things did indeed smell authentic. An Indian girl at the front spoke to us in perfect Korean, telling us we could sit wherever we wanted. We found a four-top and sat down at it, and our server came over and took our order: a half-and-half that was a Margherita on one side and a New Yorker combo special on the other. I planned to concentrate on the Margherita because it had no onions. We also ordered an appetizer of garlic-Romano fries.

The place had a good, relaxed atmosphere; the table's surface was a bit grungy and sticky, but that added to the hole-in-the-wall effect as far as I was concerned. When our food arrived, I was amused to see that the pizza had been taken out of the oven and placed on a special black-plastic pizza pan whose bottom was filled with raised bumps that made the pizza easier to lift off the surface. Smart design. The fries arrived after the pizza (the server had warned us that the kitchen was in the midst of changing out its fryer's oil, so the fries would take a while), and despite their tardiness, they were as wonderful as I had thought they would be: crispy, crunchy, herby, garlicky, and covered in flecks of hard Romano, with a white dipping sauce that might have been ranch dressing.

We grabbed at the pizza; my first slice was a Margherita. The crust was indeed New York style: those tiny bubbles on the surface of the dough told me everything I needed to know, and when I folded the slice in half, the beautiful sound of cracking bread was music to my ears. The cheese and basil were both fresh and good; the mozzarella, in particular, was hot and stringy, as God intended. I ate my slice slowly; we had ordered only a single pizza, so we'd each have only two slices. Since I didn't want to hog the Margherita, which the boy had wanted because it was his favorite, I reluctantly turned to the combo side and plopped a slice on my plate. It smelled great, and when I plucked a hunk of sausage off the slice, the meat was amazing. Alas, I was forced to dig around to extract all the insidious, slimy bits of onion hiding inside the cheese; JW demanded those bits for himself, so I dutifully tossed them over to him. When I was sure the coast was clear, I bit into the combo slice, and it was quite delicious. If I find myself at Brick Oven again, I'll definitely order a combo, but with no onions. Unless they've got a meat-lover's pizza. I'm all about the meat.

JW noted that I wasn't eating much. Part of the reason for my seeming lack of appetite was that we had ordered only enough pizza to have two slices per person. Part of the reason was also that I was tired from our walk and not as hungry as I'd thought I'd be. But I had a good time, and the pizza was indeed excellent.

The real question, though, is whether the pizza at Brick Oven is better than the pizza at Gino's, which I've written up here. The answer isn't so simple. I think Gino's and Brick Oven have equally good crusts—crackly, bubbly, and delicious. I think Gino's pepperoni and tomato sauce take the win over Brick Oven, but Brick Oven's huge and flavorful chunks of sausage definitely beat the sausage at Gino's. In the end, Gino's squeaks by with the win for me, mainly because Brick Oven's tomato sauce, while flavorful, commits the unforgivable sin of being too watery. To be sure, I'll need to go back there a few more times to see whether our pizza might have been a fluke, but as a random sample, that pizza's sauce was a bit disappointing, especially given the important role a decent sauce plays on a pizza. That complaint aside, Brick Oven has a lot going for it, and it's definitely a very good, quite authentic pizza. If the other appetizers on the menu are of the same quality (I saw calamari fritti!), I'll be back for certain.

1 comment:

Charles said...

Yeah, sauce is really important. In fact, when it comes to pizza for me, it is 1) crust, 2) sauce, and 3) other toppings. Cheese isn't really even a thing as far as I'm concerned--you can have pizza without cheese, after all. (You can even have pizza without tomato sauce, too, but then you might as well just be having a flatbread.)

I haven't been back to Gino's since we got back. Will have to get over there at some point.

Also: The onions... they are coming for you, Kevin!