East comingles with West at Southgate, a modern and cozy bar and restaurant in the Graduate Hospital/Rittenhouse area that serves up a mix of Korean culinary staples and comfort dishes.
If you are looking for traditional bar food, Southgate offers solid selections like the Bulgogi burger ($15) and “KFC” (Korean fried chicken, $12), the latter of which can be twice- or triple-fried, giving it impossibly crispy skin while keeping the meat tender and juicy. You can have your wings either soy-glazed or spicy with gochujang.
But the real excitement at Southgate is in its Korean dishes. The octopus confit ($15) has the perfect balance of hot and cool and sweet and spicy. The octopus has the perfect char, with a spicy dressing and juicy chucks of watermelon garnishing the dish. The smoked pork belly ssam ($11) is a lettuce-wrap dish that immediately starts hitting all your pressure points before it hits the table. The aroma is intoxicating with the promise of prime-seasoned pork. Once wrapped in the gem lettuce and topped with the ginger scallion sauce, the dish becomes a vibrant classic.
Southgate has an excellent banchan menu: spicy small dishes meant to add some color and flavor to rice dishes. The kim chi ($3) is the most traditional, but there are more adventurous offerings like the spicy melon ($3) and broccoli rabe with anchovy ($3).
You absolutely, positively, without a doubt have to try Southgate’s bimbimbap ($12-$17), a Korean rice bowl available with vegetables, tofu or beef. You also have the option of the dolsot bimbimbap, which is served up in a hot stone pot. The is the best and most traditional way to enjoy the dish, as it is brought to the table still sizzling and radiating spicy heat. The rice on the bottom gets crispy and caramelized, the vegetables are steamy and crisp and when you break the yolk on the fried egg on top, it flows through and coats the rice, beef and gochujang as it cooks from the heat.
Southgate is bringing some much-needed heat, both literally and figuratively, to the culinary scene in Philly. If you are looking for something exotic yet familiar, make sure you enter Southgate.