Recently William and I had lunch at this highly regarded Korean specialist. Large placemats list 17 items on the brief menu. We stuck to the beef soups that give the place its name expecting them to be the best bet.
Crocks of condiments were already on the table, as shown below. Daikon kimchee, packed in a giant pot, turned out to be our favorite of the accompaniments with juicy, wetly crisp texture, briny tanginess, peppery flavor, and sizzling chili and garlic accents. The mature cabbage kimchee looked more fiery than it tasted, showing deep fermented flavor, moderate heat, and too much sourness to eat a whole lot of it. The little pot held garlicky chili paste accented with salty scallions. The fourth bowl was filled with fresh chopped green onions . . . dont know that Ive seen a bigger quantity of prepped scallions at once before.
Barley tea was soon served, as well as hot pearly white rice, a plate of chili-coated veggies, and a bowl of dipping sauce for each of us. The wider spears on the white plate in the photo were densely crisp and salty cucumbers, and alongside them were scallions covered in chili paste. Both were wonderful and intensely flavored.
There was also a jar of salt on the table. I had wondered why such a large quantity of salt, but its purpose was revealed when our steaming bowls of soup arrived. William had #3 Dogani Tang thick broth of throughly (sic) cooked ox knee, $11.99, and I ordered the Ggori Gom Tang thick broth of throughly (sic) cooked ox tail, $11.99. Neither soup tasted like it had any salt in it at all.
We had thought that ox knee might turn out to be shank meat, but it was all beef tendon. This was perfect for my brother, who in fact orders his pho with only tendon. The chewy lengths of nearly clear tendon had softened yet retained a slight bit of resistance, just the way we like them. My ox tail was less successful with the larger joints cut crosswise into 1/4 thick slices, a form Ive not run across before. The meat was coarse and chewy, not coming off the bone easily. We dipped the tendon and ox tail meat into the bowls filled with a mixture of soy sauce, garlic, and fresh chilis to give them some flavor.
The broth was a puzzlement, being thin in texture and not thick. William thought that thick might be intended to mean that it was cloudy and not transparent. Even after addition of several scoops of salt hoping to pop the flavors out, it never revealed much beefiness or taste of any kind. In the end, I dumped the remains of the bowl of soy dipping sauce in with some chopped scallions and then some garlic-chili paste to see how the flavor might change, and it still didnt do much for me.
A pair of yogurt drinks were presented with the bill for a touch of sweetness to finish. We liked all the trimmings, wishing that other Korean restaurants served this high quality. But the two soups didnt leave us wanting to order them again, although were glad we tried them. If someone can shed some light on this dish, please chime in to help us understand what we missed.
Seoul Gom Tang
(strip mall behind Vesuvios)
3028 El Camino Real
Santa Clara 95051