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Buga in San Diego - Good Tastes/Bad Taste

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Buga in San Diego - Good Tastes/Bad Taste

e.d. | Aug 30, 2005 11:00 AM

I was escaping 113 degrees in AZ and it was 80 in SD, so when I rolled into Buga and looked over the lunch specials, I had to order the cold buckwheat noodle soup. I've had Korean cold noodle soups on a couple of previous occasions, but always as an afterthought as part of a larger meal - this time I wanted to focus on the dish and see how Buga does something other than barbecue. The server/manager asked me if I was sure that that was what I wanted because "your people don't like this." I told her that I had had cold noodles before and that this was indeed what I wanted.

I ordered the cold soup with bean pancakes (9.95 on the menu). First the ban chan arrived, and it was good. The kim chee is impeccable, and it was accompanied by bean sprouts, pickled daikon shreds, egg custard rectangles, and a sortof deconstructed potato salad with potato chunks and celery slices sitting separately with a mayo dressing. Not as many or as exotic items as at dinner, but still very good.

Then the pancakes and soup arrived. The pancakes were outstanding, light and not a bit greasy. each one had crosscut slices of chilies - one green, one red - in the center adding color and a touch of spice. The dipping sauce was a nice match to the flavorful pancakes.

The soup, to which the server added a bit of vinegar and mustard, was very good as well. If you've never had cold Korean soup before, it will surprise you to see ice floating in the broth (is broth the right word here?).The ice seems to last until the noodles and other goodies are eaten, keeping the cold soup cold. In addition to a large mass of thin gray buckwheat noodles, the soup had half of a hard boiled egg, a thin rectangle of cold beef, wonderful pickled sliced daikon and cucumber (which added both taste and crunch contrasts to the noodles) and a sizable slice of Asian pear.

The soup might take a bit of getting used to for most of us who are used to hot soups, but it was perfect for a hot day and the flavors were wonderful. The broth (or whatever one calls it) is both simple and yet complex in flavor. I have no idea what is in it, but it doesn't taste like a typical soup stock that has been chilled and seems to have a bit of background spice to it.

Anyway, everything about the meal had been good up until I got the check. The check listed the bulgogi and cold soup combination that was priced at $11.95. I pointed this out, and the server/manager said something about a "special combination." I wasn't completely sure about the original price of what I had ordered, so I paid up, but on my way out, I stopped and looked at the menu and found my pancake and soup dish, called the manager/server over and showed it to her. She then told me that the price on the menu was a "misprint," gave my arm a squeeze, and sent me on my way. It was unfortunate that a meal that had had so many good tastes ended leaving me with a metaphorical bad taste in my mouth.

ed

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