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Arirang House, near Back Bay, Boston


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Restaurants & Bars 4

Arirang House, near Back Bay, Boston

Limster | Dec 8, 2003 01:17 AM

The moderately spicy soup with flavoured chilli and fermented bean paste and chunks of vegetables and regular tofu did a good job of defrosting me after I stepped in from the cold.

The food's more competently homey than glorious, and while better versions of most things might exist elsewhere, the price point for this buffet makes a compelling argument. It may not be the most Seoulful Korean you've ever had, but some careful picking and choosing could make for an excellent bargain.

I tried everything (won't go into everything, just highlights), and for my money I think I would probably focus on a dozen or two of their good ganponggi (dried fried chicken wings in the style of Korea and Shandong, China) -- the thick crispy batter fits the classical mold and doesn't feel too greasy and the chicken's not dry.

Would punctuate said wings with a fair amount of their crisp panchan. More memorable ones from their array of common Korean side dishes include good untoned-down kimchee, soft sesame flavoured bean sprouts, larger and stiffer soy bean sprouts in a chilli marinate and similarly chilli-fied turnip cubes. Makes sense that the panchan's as good as elsewhere, since they're all pickled, and wouldn't suffer from freshness issues that is typically a worry at a buffet. But it's worth noting that the apples in the potato, egg and apple salad were actually sharp and crisp too, a good reflection of their temperature control on the cold part of the buffet.

The sweet soy flavoured japchae's more than decent, slightly jiggly, but not as thickly bouncy as, say, Koreana's. A special soup was quite good, consisting of a dashi-like broth with triangles of fishcakes (one dense, slightly pasty and browned on the outside, another light with a chinese-fishball like chewiness), large patches of mariney kelp and turnip. Similarly enjoyable were a fishcake stir-fry, this time in the ubiquitious Korean chilli sauce.

Bulogi (marinated beef) was unremarkable, pork with chilli and onions was slightly better but not by much. Squid suffered from the steam table stay, the texture a little mushy instead of the optimal snappy chew. What I thought was a sweet and sour pork attempt is best left alone.

Competent slabs of pan fried tofu in a soy sauce based sauce. Had a soft spot for the sweet potato in a sweet soyish sauce with sprinkles of sesame seeds.

Maki sushi isn't going to make anyone's swoon with pleasure (they use canned tuna in some of the rolls) but the rice stuffed inari sushi (sweet fried tofu) is undemanding, reliable and very snackable as per usual. The vegetable ones are also serviceable if it'll kill you not to have something from the sushi counter.

it's $10.95 per person for dinner or anytime weekends; lunch on weekdays go for a more fetching $7.95. Hard to complain for an all you can eat at a place that does a fairly reasonable job with the food.

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