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For June's bibimbap month, I made a point to check out Korean Secret Garden in Santa Clara. I've been curious about it for a few years and finally took the opportunity.
Arriving close to 3pm for late lunch on a Saturday, I was surprised to find the restaurant more than half-full. Family groups, friends catching up, and a few singles like me kept the place busy. Neighbors unexpectedly bumping into each other crossed the floor several times to share pours of soju. I felt like I'd found the cross roads of the local Korean community.
In contrast to the sleek and shiny modern interiors of Chungdam and Jang Su Jang, the cross-town rivals, Secret Garden feels like an old world inn, furnished with dark wood and intimate booths.
As a solo diner, I always wonder if I'm getting the full measure of the banchan available. With ten offerings plated attractively here, I'd say so. I'm always happy to have japchae as one of the side dishes. I enjoyed them all, and the shredded chicken with zucchini was a new one for me. The cabbage kimchee was better than Chungdam's, spicier and more garlicky here. I especially liked the crab one with a sweet glaze and crunchy shells, almost like crab candy crunch.
#31, Dolsotbibimbap, $12.99, with beef for me. Besides the panchan, the price was inclusive of a bowl of seaweed soup that had a twinge of too much MSG. The beef on top seemed more like sauteed as there was little grill influence. Other than that, the rest of the toppings were great including a raw egg, bracken, dried seaweed, carrot, daikon, sprouts, mushrooms, summer squash, and mustard greens. The blend of gochujang served in the squeeze bottle was much spicier and less sweet here with more of the fermented bean flavor coming through
The stone pot arrived sizzling hot and I was delighted with the golden brown rice crust. Rice was cooked perfectly too with toothsome, individual pearly grains. I was very pleased with my lunch here.
To end, a cold cup of fermented sweetened rice soup for dessert. Secret Garden has a Vegetarian section of the menu. I overheard some South Asian patrons ordering from this selection. This is something to keep in mind for future requests for vegetarian East Asian food.
Staff were attentive and answered my many questions about the food. I liked Secret Garden very much and plan to return with a larger party to try more of the menu.
What else do 'hounds like here?
Korean Secret Garden Restaurant
3430 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95051
mon - thur 11:00am - 3:00pm 5:00pm - 12:00am
fri - sat 11:00am - 12:00am
sun 11:00am - 10:00pm
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