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Asia Garden in Tappan

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Just tried this place, on Rt 303 across from Food
World. It's Korean for Koreans -- three choices of
Korean newspaper in vending machines outside the door.
Except for the BBQ tables and the fact that all signs
on the wall are in Korean, the setting could be a 70s
era Greek diner anywhere. Several pages of menu items,
standard stews and BBQ and such, and a few specialty
items, like fish head stew, as well as a couple of
pages of Japanese things. Waitstaff was very helpful,
replacing a sea-leg filled maki roll for my vegetarian
companion (the menu made their futo roll sound like it
only had veggies), but adding a couple of freebie
pieces of grilled salmon wrapped around asparagus (I
tried one: a little dry, but tasty). They knew enough
to ask if egg was okay on his bibimbap. Only the
hostess spoke anything like decent English.

I tend to judge my experience of food by the number of
items I'm unable to identify. The more unidentifiable
stuff I find, the more successful the meal. The food at
Asia Garden did not disappoint. I think there were at
least eight panchan dishes, including radish kimchi(top
and greens together), a really outstanding,
extra-red-and-spicy cabbage kimchi, sweet black beans,
pickled cucumbers, broccoli with sesame seeds, and some
unidentifiable concoction consisting of some kind of
animal innard with bits of extra-firm cartilege in
tasty chili sauce. I found the fried dry anchovies a
little disappointing, not sweet enough and a little
soggy. The entrees came in enormous stone dishes,
bigger than the ones I'm used to. My friend's veggie
bibimbap came nicely sizzling and multicolored, and was
pronounced 'The best vegetarian bibimbap I've ever
had,' and my spicy seafood stew (hamul chigae in
Korean, I think) was boiling and absolutely jam-packed
with stuff -- mostly octopus and bony fish but also
including a whole prawn, a half crab, and some objects
that looked kind of like boiled rodent brains, but
popped disconcertingly when bitten, revealing a
cartiliginous texture and releasing a flavor somewhere
between leather and pine resin. I spit one out. The
hostess told me they were 'like sea cucumbers, but
not,' and that some people didn't like them. I'm one of
those people, but I'm glad I got to find out. The dish
was generally really tasty, though. My one complaint is
that, judging from the slight buzzing in my temples on
the way home, there may have been some MSG in the
broth.

A friend of mine who goes there for sushi thinks the
place is only so-so, but I thought their Korean food
pretty much rocked. Asia Garden caters to Koreans, but
if you are an adventurous non-Korean chowhound (like
me), you'll probably enjoy it too.

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