Tasty Korean-Central Square...& how's Rangzen?
had lunch today, saying goodbye to a friend who thankfully introduced me to a very good korean restaurant in central square before she left. name of the place is Korea Garden Restaurant, 20 pearl st, central sq. (near red line). I have limited experience ordering korean food, so i left the ordering up to my friend--and i was really pleased with the results. we started with some delicious pan-fried dumplings (i think they called them raviolis), and a dish i was unfamiliar with-it involved cylindrical chewy rice cakes in a spicy sauce with mixed vegatables. I had the jap chae with beef, and my friend had their bi bim bap with veggies. it came with sides of tofu in soysauce, shredded pickled turnip and carrot, kimchee, and sprouts. We devoured the jap chae--it was fantastic. tofu was a bit bland, but the other sides were pretty good. I wasn't crazy about her veggie rice bowl, mostly because i prefer the meat variety, but there's definitely potential there. all in all, i think it warrants another visit, since this one was so promising. atmosphere is pretty homey, unassuming, seems like a family-run operation perhaps. reasonable prices, too. One note: I was told to skip the lunch buffet-my friend had it, and was pretty strongly against it.
Also, a Tibetan place called Rangzen is next door. anyone been there? i'm curious...
Rangzen has great, healthy, cheap food. I agree that the buffet is excellent. All-you-can-eat steamed momo dumplings; mild, comforting soups; lots of lightly cooked, crisp vegetable dishes like green beans with garlic or steamed asparagus with just a splash of soy sauce and butter; diverse meat entrees; salad and fruit! Cilantro, garlic, ginger, and soy sauce (all gently used) are predominant flavors.
They cook everything either in small amounts of butter or in canola oil. The owners told me that the last time the food inspectors were there that they were shocked at how clean the kitchen was--i.e., it wasn't coated in a thick layer of grease like most restaurant kitchens. If it's not on the walls, it means you aren't eating it either.
I've only been for dinner once because the lunch buffet is too distracting. Dinner was also very good. We ordered several dishes that looked the same--same mix of veggies--but each had a distinct flavor. At night you also get bread with a cilantro salsa with the meal--my favorite part of the meal, the salsa was excellent.
The setting is comforting--dark wood set off by white walls and a nice panorama of the Himalayas.
The food is several steps above House of Tibet near Davis Square. House of Tibet is also cheap and comforting, but the cooking is uneven, dishes are a little heavier, and the seasoning is less inspired than at Rangzen. Still House of Tibet serves up complete dinners supercheap--$7 and up.
Also just went to Korea Garden for the first time and was delighted to see that they served those chewy cylindrical rice cakes (called Dok -- and the preparation in the spicy sauce is called Dok Buk Yi). Their version of it is too oily for my taste, but those chewy rice cakes are addictive.
A question: how is Mary Chung doing? Still as good and popular as it was years ago? And are there other Asian places in the Central/Kendall area that make for good lunches?
re: david k
I've eaten at the new All-Asia twice now, and both times been quite disappointed with the quality of the ingredients. The meat tastes like it's been sitting around for a few days and then microwaved, and the vegetables were soggy. It's too bad because the server (same guy both times) was really friendly, and capably handled my friend's special food-allergy requests/questions.
I tried Pu Pu Hot Pot the other day and had a similarly negative experience -- *everything* was swimming in grease or some kind of oil. Even the cold cucumber appetizer. I know some people swear by this place, but I don't think I'll go back. To top it off, the silverware and cups were dirty (lipstick stains? c'mon).
re: david k
I had a horrible lunch special at Mary Chung's and blame myself for not asking about the shrimp in the dish (they were like those tiny canned ones). It was unappealing to look at and taste and wasn't spicy even tho it had a star. I should stick with those things they're really famous for. I agree about All Asia. They should make some good appetizers and become a bar cuz the food's fair at best. Pu Pu Hot Pot I can't complain too much about cuz it's so cheap and thankfully I didn't see lipstick on my fork. That Chinese restaurant next to Salts is okay and I got take out at the tiny Thai place next to the Cambridgeport which was passable.
thought I'd write about Rangzen separately.
Rangzen is a gem, worth the trip. They have
a cheapish all you can eat lunch that is really
good, a nice variety of things. Tibetan food is
just what you'd expect, between Chinese, Indian
and closer to European foods. The stuff's a bit
more like "stew" than a stir fry or a curry, but
some things are flavored east asian and some are
flavored south asian, and there are breads and
there is rice.
they make some great hearty soups that are a meal
But the best thing about Tibetan food is that the
Tibetans haven't been living here long enough to
turn their food into the same old goop that
so many many many Chinese, Indian, Thai, etc.
restaurants do. This food is fresh homestyle,
no pretension to elegant, but everything tastes
different from everything else, and everything
I've never been to that Korean restaurant...
actually, I think it may have been the first
Korean restaruant I ever went to but that was
so long ago I can't remember it. Unfortunately
for the health of our ongoing relationship,
they've left that same plastic example food
in the window this whole time and it's looking
positively scary by now. If your little plastic
example food looks rotten, it scares people off
On the basis of your good experience, I'll allow
myself to be led blindfold past the plastic food
and give it another try.
Other great Korean around (the ravioli are called
mandoo, BTW) can be found at Wu Chon in Union Squ
Somerville (290 Somerville Ave 617 623-3313)
Koreana on the corner of Prospect and Broadway
wasn't too bad but Wu Chon is so good I haven't
been back to Koreana in awhile. Same with Shilla
in Harvard Squ (upstairs of Grendels... is Shilla
still there after the remodelling?)
And that Korean BBQ place out in Burlington on
Rte 3A is worth the trip, I keep saying...
For those new to Korean, it is worth the $$$ and
time to go to a BBQ place that lets you do the
cooking at a BBQ table. (the ones I raved do)
it's a bit of a production, but if you love good
food as much as you're supposed to to come to
this site... there's no substitute. Bulgoki is
the classic Korean BBQ beef: if you order it
from the kitchen, it's good usually. But if you
cook it at your table... ooooohhhhhhh....
Jap chae that you mention I don't generally like
(all those positively slimy clear rice spaghetti
"eels" squirreling away under the chopstick tips)
but bi bim bop can be really good: usually it's a
pretty heavy rice "casserole" with lots of tasty
bits with crunchy crockery cooked (whoa, I fixed
it but in a teeny little typo my fingers just
produced the appropriate ethnic slur... very
weird/funny. anyway...) the crunchy crockery cooked
rice is really good, but it sometimes has a
tendency toward "oily" which makes it a heavy
sort of lunch meal. But the place in Burlington
serves this really cool light and lively version
with steamed rice on the side. I don't know
enough about Korean to know if it has any
traditional basis, but it's a really great lunch.
Just beg them not to burn the living daylights
out of the egg on top. They'll have no idea what
you are talking about, but you tried.
(I have no idea what it's called... about 2 mi
north of 128 on 3A on the right behind the
swimming pool shop)
the plastic food in the window was something i forgot to mention--thanks for the reminder. i had to wait a few minutes for my friend to meet me, and was definitely pretty weirded out by those dishes. i suppose it's sort of impressive that they had so many plastic food dishes (like 8! the most i've seen), but also kind of nauseating--not appetizing at all. also, i had this lingering feeling that they WEREN'T really plastic, but dishes that had been sitting there for a while (with a coat of formaldehyde, perhaps?). maybe next time i'll give them the touch test...