kdrama,  reviews

[Review] The Tasty Florida

Hey guys! Welcome back to another series review. I found this series randomly on VIKI a couple nights ago, as of writing this, and it sounded like it could be cute, so I gave it a try. I didn’t have any expectations really because when it comes to BL, Korea has never really been a country with great or memorable BL stories to begin with.

The series is only 8 episodes and each episode is between 10 and 12 minutes long which doesn’t really give much development time. For anyone that hasn’t heard of this series, or simply hasn’t watched it yet, here is a summary in my own words (because the summary on VIKI is too darn long):

The Tasty Florida is a Korean BL mini-series that follows a young freshman named Hae Won who just moved to Seoul and will be living in a boarding house until he can get a job and save up enough money to move into his own apartment. The boarding house houses a small restaurant on the roof called The Tasty Florida and is run by a guy named Eun Gyu. Three other employees work there named Ji Soo, Ha Jin, and Seo Hyeok. Ji Soo takes an automatic liking to Hae Won and tries to pursue him, but Hae Won only has eyes for Eun Gyu who is very hot and cold with him, but secretly likes Hae Won in return. With Eun Gyu and Ji Soo being best friends since childhood, the fact that they both have feelings for Hae Won causes a rift in their relationship.

Sounds simple, right? Very slice of life which is what I like to go for when it comes to romance dramas. The synopsis on VIKI does not hint at the fact that there is a love triangle in this series, so when I saw one developing, I was a bit put off because I hate love triangles. But fortunately for me, this was not a love triangle where one person is torn between two people and doesn’t know who to choose and theres a never ending back and forth of “oh no, whomever will they choose? They’re in love with both”. No. I hate that.

In this series, Hae Won is attracted to Eun Gyu. Eun Gyu is attracted to Hae Won and quickly starts to like him. When Eun Gyu finds out that his best friend Ji Soo is also attracted to Hae Won and wants to pursue him, he backs off and turns cold towards Hae Won as a way to hide his feelings and not get in the way. But Hae Won isn’t interested in Ji Soo romantically and thinks he is only being friendly just like the other employees at the restaurant since he is knew to the city. Ji Soo quickly realizes that Hae Won is not into him, but is hurt when he finds out that Eun Gyu has indeed been overstepping his boundaries as a friend and has been spending lots of time with Hae Won, and has even spent the night in his room more than once. And, well…Ji Soo had much to be worried about…

The Tasty Florida
The Tasty Florida first kiss
whoopsies…👀

Characters

I liked the characters in this. There wasn’t much depth to any of them since this series is so short, but after the first few episodes, you get to know their personalities a little bit more. Hae Won is shy and a bit awkward at first. He actually doesn’t even have that many lines in the first few episodes and his personality is shown through his awkwardness and facial expressions.

Ji Soo is an outgoing, super friendly guy and has no shame in going after whatever it is he wants. It is known early on that he pursues both men and women because gender/sex doesn’t matter to him. He likes what he likes, when he likes it. That’s it.

Eun Gyu is a polite but quiet guy who has some internal issues that manifests in his coldness and how he can be uptight sometimes. He also tends to drink when he is too mentally overwhelmed. We find out that his mother died early and his father was always away which is how he became such close friends with Ji Soo as a child; Eun Gyu would live together with Ji Soo and his family whenever his father went abroad on really long trips. Even now, as an adult, his father is still gone.

Ha Jin and Seo Hyeok are the most 1-dimensional characters since they are side characters and were pretty much used as the comedic relief of the show. Not that they had that much screen time or comedy, but their upbeat personalities and funny relationship dynamic with each other would lighten the mood when things would get a bit serious.

We also briefly get to see a woman who I just called “the house mother” of the boarding house. She owns it and is the one who welcomes Hae Won when he arrives. She knows his mother and is allowing him to stay there. She is not seen again after the first episode so her character is not really important.

The Tasty Florida characters

Actors

The actors that play Ha Jin and Seo Hyeok are actually YouTubers. When I first saw them, I couldn’t understand why they looked so familiar to me and I was trying to wrack my brain remembering where on earth I saw them. Then it hit me. YouTube! I don’t even remember how or why their channel got recommended to me a couple years ago, but they have a channel and their relationship dynamic on the show is practically the same dynamic they have in real life. It was almost as if they weren’t even really acting lol. Their character personalities were very similar to their real personalities. I didn’t mind this though.

The actor that played Ji Soo wasn’t bad. I think he played the outgoing-take-what-I-want character pretty well. His character was never pushy or rude or arrogant. Just confident. And although I don’t like how he initially confronted Eun Gyu about what he was doing (in front of everybody!), I could understand his hurt and his feelings of betrayal. I don’t really have much else to say about him, honestly.

The boy that played Hae Won made me cringe initially because I thought his acting was crossing into the stale category. But as I continued to watch, I realized that his character was supposed to be portrayed that way lol. He’s shy. Lots of shy people are awkward and don’t talk much. I used to be one of them. But as Hae Won got to know the other characters and fell for Eun Gyu more and more, he became less awkward and therefore the acting was better. Hae Won went from hiding from Eun Gyu to actually making the first move for a kiss. I liked seeing this growth, so good job to the actor for this.

I also really liked how even though Hae Won’s character was initially shy and generally very quiet, he seems to share similarities with Ji Soo in that he goes after what he wants. We see this when he tries to initiate conversations with Eun Gyu, doesn’t back down from Eun Gyu when Eun Gyu tries to scare him off with sexual tension, and ultimately when he makes the first move for a kiss.

The man that played Eun Gyu was probably the better actor out of the cast. He wore his expressions on his face very well and I as the viewer was able to see his character’s internal conflict as he battled his feelings for Hae Won and how this would impact his friendship with Ji Soo. I think he did very well, with the limited time he had in the series, portraying an internally conflicted character. I also really loved the way he looked at his co-star (Hae Won) during the more intimate moments. I truly believed that he liked him, and that’s all I ask for in dramas. Make me believe it. Their on screen chemistry was great and I was rooting for them.

Story

The story itself was nothing major, but slice of life stories tend to be this way. Pretty slow and without much plot. This doesn’t really bother me as long as I am not bored. Personally, I was interested in how this whole thing would play out between Hae Won and Eun Gyu, and what would happen with Eun Gyu and Ji Soo’s relationship.

However, even though slice of life stories tend to be a bit slower paced, I still think that this series suffered from what almost all mini series suffer from, and that’s pacing due to time constraints. The first few episodes made it difficult to know just how much time was passing between scenes. One moment, Hae Won is the new kid on the block, the next moment, he’s been there for a month already. And being that he was supposed to be a student at a nearby university in the city, it was strange that he was never shown actually going to class. He even arrived at the boarding house with no notebooks, no bookbag, no school supplies in general. Just a tiny suitcase of clothes.

It’s mentioned in the series that Eun Gyu has always been the type of person that holds back and allows other people that he cares about to have whatever they want. Specifically, Ji Soo. And this is shown by how he tries to back off and allow Ji Soo to pursue Hae Won even though he likes him. I think the final confession would have held more emotional weight had we been able to see more of how Eun Gyu does this; suppressing his own desires for the sake of others. Especially when Ji Soo finally confronts Eun Gyu and tells him that wanting Hae Won has probably been the first time Eun Gyu has ever truly wanted something and it pains him to not go after it.

It’s also mentioned in the story about Eun Gyu’s family situation and how it’s a dream of his to go find his dad who he knows is in Florida and was the inspiration behind the name of the rooftop restaurant. But this really isn’t fleshed out, so in the final episode when it jumps to a year later and Eun Gyu is returning from Florida, it felt strange. Like, when did he leave? Was he actually gone for a whole year? Did he find his dad? How did that reunion go? Did he really leave right after he and Hae Won got together? Does that mean Hae Won is a sophomore now? Why have we still not seen him actually go to school? Like…I had questions lol.

So, yea. Such few and short episodes was not enough to build a fleshed out story. This series would have benefitted from more time, more episodes, and more exploration of the characters’ backgrounds and personal motivations. Also, when there is limited time for a series, it’s best if that time is not spent showing flashbacks of scenes the viewers have already seen. This is fine, generally speaking. Just not when you only have 10 minutes for an episode. That time could be better spent building the characters and story.

Lastly, the romance between Eun Gyu and Hae Won was actually really sweet, so it would have been nice to see it develop more after the love confession.

Locations/Scenery

Korea is a pretty country and has lots of places that can be considered “aesthetic”. The main scenery was the rooftop restaurant and it was so cute. I could definitely see it being a real rooftop cafe in Korea. I would for sure visit it if it was real.

The Tasty Florida rooftop restaurant

Music

The music was fun yet sweet and I enjoyed it a lot. Fun Fact! Almost all the songs on the soundtrack were sung by the actual cast members! So, that was cool.

Overall

Overall, this show could use some work, but I still enjoyed it. I’ve seen some less than stellar reviews online for this show, but I say take it for what it is. It’s a mini series. Having 8 episodes of roughly 10 minutes each is not enough to build a fully realized plot, so don’t go in expecting such. It’s lighthearted and sweet and I recommend it if you enjoy slice of life stories without too much emotionally taxing drama.

The Tasty Florida love confession
The Tasty Florida kiss scene

Until next time! ~

VIKI link: https://www.viki.com/tv/38119c-the-tasty-florida

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