K is for Korean and Koriente
Were it not for the fact that my mechanic is across the street I may never have discovered Koriente, a cozy restaurant and tea house on the corner of East 7th Street at Sabine. Although a few months passed before I had the opportunity to visit for lunch, I am delighted to say the Hummus Roll in a thin tapioca wrap ($4) was very fresh and tasty. It is served with a choice of two sauces but I requested both to taste and was graciously accommodated.
The piece de resistance for me, however, is the green tea ice cream, listed on the menu as Sundae Daydream ($3). Yes, it is ice cream but so light and refreshingly delicious...it surely must be healthy, too.
On other occasions friends and I have tried the Lemon Marinated Salmon (the Friday Special $8), the classic Bulgogi & Veggies ($7) and the MixMix Bibimbap ($6) but always always... always end the meal with green tea ice cream.
Next time I'm going for the Ka-re, a Korean-style curry ($6).
Oh, one more thing - it's a tea house so the selection is plentiful. My favorite is the Wedding Tea, which is a white tea (the highest in antioxidents of all teas but with very little caffeine).
And one more thing, too. While the remodeling of this little building was going full tilt in preparation for opening and all that entails, the owners planted all the available green space surrounding their location with the most beautiful gardens full of color, texture, variety...small oasises in the midst of concrete and asphalt. What a lovely concept.
621 E. 7th @ Sabine 275-0852 Koriente.com
I'm very on the fence about Koriente. I like their concept, but sometimes I just cannot eat the food. The ingredients are fresh and beautifully presented (they have a good eye for design, evident by the small space), but TOO raw. There is a difference between healthy and overkill raw food movement-esque cuisine. The Veggie tacos were atrocious when I went. It was completely lacking in flavor and the pickled raddish shell just didn't do it for me. Also, why don't they serve kimchi?! It's a "korean" restaurant. Kimchi is essential. No korean kitchen would be caught dead without that staple.
The kalbi pot roast was great though. The kalbi jigae of my youth was much thicker and heavy... this was light but still satisfying. I think this kind of subtle nutritious upgrade was what they were going for with all their dishes, but many missed the mark. The japchei, kare and bibimbap is good too... although the bibimbap is terrible with the noodles and authentic bibimbap MUST have an egg on it. The egg is essential to creating the sauce.
The tea selection is pretty good. They have the typical jasmine pearls and silver needles, but they advertise the teas as if they have the rarest teas in the world. These are not THAT rare, but are still better than most Austin establishments. Go to the Tea Embassy for really rare stuff.
re: bloody hammer
ban/pan-chan are the little dishes served alongside Korean meals. They are the mark of a good Korean restaurant and should be closely evaluated. The Halmoni (grandmother) makes the different dishes which are very difficult to master. I do like Korea house, but have become spoiled by the great food along Longview in Houston so I'm a hard critic to impress. I have yet to find a Korean restaurant that stands up to the restaurants that have resulted from Houston's dense Korean population (although, Korean food is one of the strongest Asian food offerings in Austin). Does anyone have any suggestions? I frequent most of the places along airport and lamar regularly but have yet to explore beyond there.
I was SO letdown by this place, and honestly I wish I was able to say otherwise, but after multiple visits I just had to admit that the food is weak at best. Most of the dishes I tried seemed to have little -- if any -- flavor. I grew up eating Korean food so this place is a shock. It is nice inside though and the staff is extremely friendly.
I quite like Koriente. I think it's one of the better reasonably healthy and cheap dining options in the downtown area, and I like to hit it up before being reasonably unhealthy to myself at a nearby bar. But it is hit or miss, big time.
First off, I hesitate to call it a Korean restaurant. Maybe Korean is their primary influence but it is decidedly unlike most Korean restaurants I've eaten at, and though I do not have the explicit experience to back me up, I can say with near certainty that it ain't authentic.
For one, stay away from the miso soup. They put jalapenos in it. OK, I get it, I'm in Texas, but not everything needs jalapenos.
The bi bim bap is quality. Not as robust or flavorful as the bi bim bap at Korea House but I think the veggies might be fresher, and pretty much everything on the menu at Koriente has vegetarian options, which is a good thing.
My other favorite dishes there are the ka re with tofu and the dishes with the glass noodles .. can't remember the names exactly. Definitely go for the noodles. Also, a rule of thumb I apply with Koriente is that vegetarian dishes tend to be better choices than the meat dishes. Their meat has a reheated quality .. as a component of the bi bim bap, the beef does just fine, and their sauce complements it nicely. But they have dishes that more prominently feature the meat, and you might want to stay away from them.
It's got a nice atmosphere, funny chairs, a great tea selection, and a great location. Oh and pretty much everything is well under $10. It's not even close to being a world-class korean dining experience... but it's good for what it is.