Frequent contributors to this board and other non posting hounds know of Westmont as a desirable suburban location for Asian food of many varieties/countries. My first visit to this unassuming town was to try Lao Sze Chuan based on reports read here and was pleasantly surprised by food bursting with flavor from chilis, garlic and a healthy dose of oil. So on Friday we decided venture into Korea Garden for round two of the Westmont experience.
Tidy, utilitarian and bright or what Hemingway would look for in a Korean BBQ joint(sorry for the cheap allusion.) We were greeting by an older gentleman and propmtly seated. The traditional barley tea is served. After looking around the place and seeing the interaction between the staff, it looks as if it's father, mother, son and daughter with grandmother hanging out in the back. The service was gracious and attentive without ever being imposing or brusque.
I am a beginner to this cuisine as I am to most, other than Italian and Mexican, so if that bugs you hit your back button. Our choices were not adventurous, but there are many options on the menu for future visits and for those with a taste for offal(tripe and tongue), goats, eels and Angler fish. That said we started with the fun to pronounce Goonmandoo, or pan fried dumplings. Filled with pork, green onions and something else, quite tasty and served with basic soy for dipping.
There is the option of do it yourself cooking on a table top charcoal grill which we went with. If you don't feel comfortable cooking, all of the meat options are available in kitchen prepared dinners. I went with the Bulgogi and the wife got the Dak Gui or a fancy name dropping way to say chicken. Other options included short ribs, pork with tasty rind(korean bacon?) and shrimp. Both were marinated in the standard soy, green onion and garlic and were exceedingly tender and sweet without being cloying. The chicken was thigh meat which made me wonder why boring white chicken breasts are the cut of choice when it comes to most American consumers, myself included. Thigh meat is so much more juicy and flavorful and interesting. Our national obsession with breasts and lowfat foods at work? Enough armchair philosophy.
The real exciting part of the meal was the 7 sides of kimchi and other pickled vegetables. Standard kimchi was spicy with a medium heat level which might lead some to want a bit more kick. One of the sides was Bindae Tok or a silver dollar sized pancacke with pork, veggies and mung bean. Spinach with sesame oil and seeds, marinated soy bean sprouts, pickled radish, thin strips of a "fish cake", julienned strips of a white crunchy vegetable the waiter referred to as "like" ginseng root and 1/2 cubes of a chili and garlic pickled vegetable which had the texture of under ripe pineapple rounded out the choices. Anybodies guess as to the identity of these last two vegetables would be most welcome. Turnip or some sort of exotic radish. The thin strips might have been daikon, but not really sure.
Anyhow, fun was had by all, this is a child friendly place, but not in a bad way. A child sort of freaked out when the charcoal bucket was brought to their table, but the father propmtly picked him up, whisked him outside and calmed him down. Not another peep was heard. Why aren't all parents this considerate? Use caution if you decide to cook yourself. A large selection of noodle soups are also available. High end menu items include the goat meat soup along with Haemul Jungol or Korean style soupa del mar. Enjoy!
204 N. Cass
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