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Fun Meal at Koreana

Had a festive dinner with 5 friends at Koreana last night. I am a complete ignoramus when it comes to korean bbq and korean food in general, but I did my best and we surely enjoyed both the food and the atmosphere.

To start, they put the Dice-K vs. King Felix matchup on the big projector screen. Major props!

We started out with some scallion pancakes, shumai, and a house special fried rice. The scallion pancake was a bit thicker doughier than I like, but still good with a nice soy-sauce based dipping sauce and a heavy scallion flavor. Also had some nice shumai that were not gummy at all. I really liked the house special fried rice...though I know some will stone me here for ordering it. But it was a mixed crowd of varying tastes, and this white, eggy, chicken friend rice was at least a crowd pleaser.

For entrees we split bulgogi, galbi, and and pork bulgogi, extra spicy. A couple of the ladies also ordered some assorted maki rolls which were proclaimed good, but which I did not try.
The cooking process made for some hilarious confusion, as no one was quite sure what to throw on there. The dizzying assortment of accountrements that accompanied the meat were a bit much for these 6 gringos to process, but we did our best and had a good time doing it. I thought the galbi was the highlight of the evening, fatty, moist, flavorful...much better than the bulgogi, which I thought a bit flavorless, even when cooked very rare. What is the deal with the little dumpling wrappers? Are you supposed to make dumplings and grill them? Eat the wrappers cold? I did like the little dish of hot green chiles and garlic. They went especially well with the spicy pork.

the evening ended with a complimentary cold cinnamon tea that was extremely refreshing. Can someone tell me what this is called?

All in all, a good time, especially with the beers flowing and the game on. Next time I'll bring someone who knows what they're doing.

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  1. Roasted barley tea is generally served at the end of a Korean meal. You can by big bags of it at any Asian grocery store, for about 5 bucks. It can be brewed cold in your fridge, which is nice. I always keep a bottle going in the summer. Plus, it' caffeine-free.

    4 Replies
    1. re: galleygirl

      Nope, not barley tea, or "bori cha," which is often served in winter time at the beginning and during the course of a meal. The sweet dessert tea that tamerlanenj is referring to is called "sujeonggwa." It is indeed flavored with cinnamon, ginger (I think) and sugar and often has a couple of pine nuts floating in it. Serves as a nice palate cleanser at the end of a (usually) garlic-laden Korean meal.

      1. re: a l i c e

        Oh no, my bad! I do know that've been served barley tea both in summer and winter, will look for the swetened tea next!

        1. re: galleygirl

          No bad! I could drink that barley tea year-round (and sometimes do - it is typically chilled in the summer). Would be so comforting (hot) on a day like today. Keep an eye out for the sujeonggwa next time you find yourself in a Korean joint - I think you would enjoy it, based on your wonderful and diverse taste, evident on this board. (It should be always be a free treat as the OP notes.)

      2. re: galleygirl

        when i've been in koreana, they've served shik-hye (malted rice drink) at the end. it can be distinguished by the fact that it usually has some (almost disintegrated) rice grains floating in the bottom. (it's also sweet and has pine nuts, like most korean teas). It doesn't normally have cinnamon, just malt. It used to be rather fancy drink because it takes a bunch of ingredients and special fermenting technique, but you can buy kits and also canned version of sikhye nowadays, too :) (the prefab ones are kind of too sweet for my taste, but if you liked the Koreana one, give them a try)

        sujeonggwa is nice too, though! :) (i'd prefer it over shikhye, if places would offer it! it's made with persimmons, so probably not so easy or common)

      3. little dumpling wrappers? sounds weird, you are usually supposed to wrap meat in lettuce or sesame leaves. We never ate with dumpling wrappers when I was growing up, unless they were used for mandu - korean dumplings.

        were they thinly sliced radish circles by any chance? THose look a lot like dumpling wrappers

        7 Replies
        1. re: bitsubeats

          Were the "dumpling wrappers" doughy and flexible? About how big were they, and did they come alone on a plate? How thick were they?

          It might be a Boston adoption of a hot new fad in LA bbq places, ddeok bosam, or "rice noodle wrap". I haven't seen it around anywhere on menus here, but it has been quite the popular item in LA, so maybe it's spreading. It's oiled thin rice noodle, sometimes cut round. (If so, I'm curious to know if it has acquired a "boston dialect" name, like the "okdol bibimbap" which is so pervasive here but is nonsensical anywhere else :) ) If that's what it was, you just use it like you would the leafs-- cook the meat, then fill with meat, paste, etc.

          The only other thing I can think of is gujolpan, which is definitely like dumpling wrappers, but seems kind of unlikely in this context--and I don't think Koreana has it-- it's a dish of little soft rice pancakes surrounded by a variety of different toppings, but it's very fancy food, and not something that one normally finds on restaurant menus.

          Big radish slices is a good hypothesis too (but they would have given themselves away as pickled and vegatacious, no?)

          1. re: another_adam

            ddeok bossam? never heard of it, my mother would say I was crazy if I ever asked her about it.

            I'll stick with my good ol lettuce + ggaenip

            1. re: bitsubeats

              yeah, i'm suspicious of this thing too, but given that we can't really get the really nice oak lettuce in boston most of the time (and sometimes the gaennip tastes... woody? fibery? can't really describe why it's weird...) , maybe it's a reasonable compromise. :)
              I think it's kind of a step in the wrong direction-- if it weren't for the local lettuce situation, what we really need here is a great ssambap place with special extra healthy ssamjang made from 37 different kind of pine nuts and dwenjang.

              Anyway, I haven't had ddeok bossam yet (i've heard it called something else, too... ddeok bo rak? something like that), but I have some image of it being kind of oily. (or else the rice sticks together--it's kind of like vietnamese rice sheets, I think). But maybe Koreana has it now? (Since I don't like Koreana that much, I'm not rushing to try... but I'm glad to hear the reports of good times there! although I don't think their food is great, it's at least mostly recognizable as Korean, which puts them above some other local K-joints)

              1. re: another_adam

                there is no good korean food in this city . I have to wait twice a year to visit my mother in maryland to eat good stuff.

                are you korean?

                1. re: bitsubeats

                  yeah, i agree (of course) with the assessment of korean food in boston, and in a sense I feel like koreana embodies exactly what's wrong with it: serving sushi and teriyaki, and having a wide menu of many different kinds of things, none of which is all that well executed. although korean food isn't hard to prepare, it does require a certain patience and attention, and almost all the really good korean restaurants I've been to (in LA and Seoul) specialize in just one or two types of dishes.

                  (I'm not Korean, but after years in LA amidst korean colleagues, I've been well trained to cook and appreciate good korean food. Luckily, it's not all that hard to cook much better K-food--and make better kimchi!-- at home, compared to what you can get in korean restaurants around here)

                  At any rate, I do appreciate that Koreana is decent enough to make a positive impression of Korean food, so maybe one day Korean restaurant owners will stop underestimating the potential popularity of the cuisine.

            2. re: another_adam

              What you describe is exactly what we had! little flat round rice noodles

              1. re: tamerlanenj

                cool, then my guess is ddeok bossam, a hot new craze to sweep the nation :) just wrap like you would with a dumpling wrapper (it's already cooked)

          2. We had a great meal there a couple of weekends ago - important to bring a lot of friends and someone who knows Korean food - good thing we had both. However, service was TERRIBLE. After being seated we waited for a good 15 minutes and no waiter appeared - they seemed to be short staffed or just inattentive - I finally grabbed the manager and asked him if we could get some service and he rushed to find someone. I heard a couple of other nearby tables complaining about similar issues. To be fair it was very busy (Friday night) but even so, it seemed that the waiters were pretty much amateurs.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Sgt Snackers

              Although I don't exactly think of Koreana as a truly authentic Korean restaurant experience, there could be a slight bit of cultural-stylistic difference here. Restaurant service in Korea tends to be rather, um, brusque and inattentive, and you sometimes have to call loudly for someone to come bring you something. (Nowadays, a common style is to have little "doorbells" that you ring when need something--these are typically extremely loud, resonating through the whole restaurant, and pushing it makes you feel as if you have some life and death situation in progress)
              Then again, the flip side of this is that service is also extremely quick (order immediately, and get the check when the food comes or soon thereafter)-- so your experience does sound more like bad American service than typical Korean service :)