South Korea has done it again.
After being spoiled by a longer run time with the recent Korean BL Light On Me, I was more than a little wary about jumping into a short Korean mini-drama, especially one with only eight episodes at an estimated twelve minutes apiece. While I don’t mind quick watches, I enjoy the slow burn pace longer dramas give me. That said, The Tasty Florida completely owned its short format time slot. As the newest Korean BL release, The Tasty Florida is both visually and professionally stunning. The actors did not hold back, giving us fleshed-out characters with deep emotions and electric chemistry.
Opening with a fun, heat-filled first meeting between our leads, Seo Hae Won (actor Cha Woo Min) and Baek Eun Kyu (actor Kim Yoo Hwan), The Tasty Florida pulls out all the stops, embracing its short story format in a way that doesn’t overreach but also doesn’t limit itself. It focuses well on its characters, keeping the attention on the awkward, sweet Hae Won and the walled-off, reserved Eun Kyu. Together they take a journey from their spark-filled beginning to an endearing, selfless finish; all centered around a rooftop restaurant.
Many things worked for this drama, but the characters are the real stars. The interactions and emotional connections gave it a depth that’s hard to achieve with mini-dramas, but the most surprising emotional entanglement for me is the love triangle. The Tasty Florida introduces this triangle early with Eun Kyu’s closest friend and business partner, Cha Ji Soo (actor Moon Kang Hyuk), revealing he has a crush on the newcomer Hae Won. Unlike Eun Kyu, Ji Soo is a go-getter, the kind of person that takes what he wants out of life. So, even though both Eun Kyu and Ji Soo feel sparks as soon as they meet Hae Won, Eun Kyu spends most of his time avoiding his feelings while Ji Soo faces them head-on. Both men have very different demeanors and backgrounds that express well why they are the way they are.
But when it comes to love, no matter how close a friendship, jealousy is a demon that tears people apart. I expected the same to happen in The Tasty Florida. Only it didn’t.
Although Eun Kyu and Ji Soo are love rivals, I was surprised by their genuine friendship and love for each other and where this leads them. In a race against the clock and their hearts, both Eun Kyu and Ji Soo suddenly take off, running near the finale in search of Hae Won. Streets blur past them, but just as they begin to approach the location of the man they love, Ji Soo suddenly stops while Eun Kyu keeps moving forward. The symbolism behind this is spectacular. Ultimately, the biggest hurt for Cha Ji Soo wasn’t the thought of Hae Won’s rejection; it was being barred from the thoughts and secrets his closest friend Eun Kyu kept. This moment said so much about them both. The man who lets things go (Eun Kyu) and the man who grasps onto them (Ji Soo) both taking a moment to do the opposite of their usual is one of the most significant’ light bulb’ growth moments I’ve seen in a drama. It captures the transition these men are going through. Eun Kyu is learning to grasp what he loves, while Ji Soo is learning to step back rather than take something.
This growth leads me to the only con in this series for me: the time jump.
Time jumps are not unusual in mini web dramas, and because of the short duration, these jumps can feel like substantial missing pieces in a puzzle. Although Eun Kyu’s father is mentioned quite a bit in the series, especially regarding how Eun Kyu behaves and deals with real-life situations, his relationship with his dad is never fully explored. Instead, it’s resolved by a time jump in which Eun Kyu flies to Florida, spends a year presumably making amends with his father, and then returning to Hae Won’s loving embrace.
This time jump left me feeling off-balance. Because I’ve become so emotionally invested in these characters and this story, I wanted to see that resolution. I wanted to see Eun Kyu come together with his father and discuss why his dad left in the first place. I needed to know why, and I was denied that.
Despite this plot hole and despite the fact time jumps in mini-dramas always throw me for a loop, I love that this wasn’t a complicated separation. That Seo Hae Won was all like, “Go do your thing. I’ll be here taking care of stuff until you return.” Hae Won is the kind of foundation Eun Kyu needs in his life, and his encouraging Eun Kyu to find his father despite knowing they’d be apart says so much about how healthy Hae Won is for Eun Kyu.
All in all, The Tasty Florida was precisely the drama I needed at the moment. It was emotionally beautiful and the chemistry was incredible. But the highlight for me was definitely Eun Kyu’s complexities and Hae Won’s finger pictures. They are such potent expressions of these two men and why they fit together. Eun Kyu’s lonely persona and pining feelings create a thick tension that’s hard to ignore. His need not to hurt his friend Ji Soo by denying himself, but his honesty when drunk contradicts himself in complex heartrending ways. While, on the other hand, Hae Won’s easy acceptance of his feelings and his equally easy-going nature is the perfect safety net for Eun Kyu.
I fell in love with Hae Won’s faux photography. Throughout the drama, Hae Won holds his hands up as if he’s taking a mental picture of Eun Kyu in varying moments and phases. From beginning to end, I love the way Seo Hae Won did this, the way he captures every moment with the man he’s falling for. As if time stands still every single time Eun Kyu steps into Hae Won’s personal space.
The entire The Tasty Florida cast came to impress, and they did just that. Although I still prefer longer dramas to short stories, I was fully satisfied by The Tasty Florida. Eun Kyu and Hae Won will forever own a place in my heart. If you are looking for a genuinely great mini-drama to fill an hour or so of your time, The Tasty Florida is undoubtedly for you. Check it out on Viki, WeTV, or Bilibili.
Also, check out the movie version of The Tasty Florida coming soon. Here’s hoping they have some additions to the film.
Rating- 4 out of 5