Meju - Korean-lite Any real Koreans in Philly?
I don't normally rant too much on this site, but I just wanted to post I had a very disappointing meal last night at the new restaurant, Meju (Chestnut and 2nd home of the old Mandoline). Let me first say that my experience with Korean food is quite deep and I was very excited to have a new Korean restaurant located less than a 20 minute drive from my house. Excitement soon turned to disappointment however with the first bite of my shrimp (they were out of the more traditional pork) mandu. They were quite bland with only the barest hint of shrimp. In the meantime I was anxiously awaiting the multiple side dishes (banchan) that accompany all Korean meals. In a case of blatant prejudice (my date and I are both quite "Western"), they never arrived -- even after I asked! I didn't want to make a stink in front of my date who was already freezing in a room seemingly heated only by the kitchen. But back to the food... The bibimbop was passable though quite bland and the tofu stew being eaten at the table next door looked very good. But where's the garlic? It seemed all the dishes were dumbed down for the western palate... Our galbi was well-flavored but tough and still attached to the bone, essentially forcing us to use our fingers. And there were no accompaniments such as lettuce leaves, doenjang, gochujang or even sesame oil! Overall, this is a place strictly for Korean food neophytes, and a place to visit at most once when you'll realize 20 minutes drive north is not so bad for good Korean.
Speaking of real Korean in Philadelphia, does anyone have any suggestions? I'm partial to Jong Ka Jib and I used to go to a place called Eve's (?), but generally I get my fix in Manhattan or Queens...
Big article in the Inquirer a few weeks ago naming Olney/East Oak Lane as "Koreatown." I lived in the area up until 3 years ago, and am planning on going this week to Front and Olney Ave. to a place called Everyday Good House (5501 N. Front St.). The others along 5th Street up to and including Cheltenham Ave. were talked about in the article, and are all supposed to very authentic and good.
Yes, Olney up to Melrose Park is "Koreatown." Here's there article:
Driving up Broad to Cheltenham Ave, this is readily apparent as Korean language signs pop up and culminate with the giant H-Mart plaza (which has a very decent food court, as well).
Not repped is Kim's BBQ (5955 N 5th St), which as I understand it from Korean friends is the de facto Korean BBQ joint in that neighborhood.
Tried Gaya in Blue Bell this weekend. Soft opening a couple of weeks ago but already packed with folks. Service left a great deal to be desired. Not for lack of trying; staff are stumbling over each other to help. Meal was grand and I will definitly be back, but in a month or 2......
You don't know how much I appreciate the suggestions, guys! I moved to the area 9 years ago from CA and never quite figured out where the good Korean food was. I've been going to NJ for the last few years, but my favorite place is giving me the foreign husband punishment now that I'm married...no matter how much "real" Korean food he eats!
You got one right here. Yeah, downtown Philly including Old City Korean Restaurants are pretty "Korean-Lite" not bad, but not great either, good enough to satisfy my cravings... Giwa is OK for a quick "K-lite" meal. You can find "better" Korean in North Philly/ Cheltenham area. And in NE Phila. on Castor Avenue.
Kim's BBQKim's BBQ
(Korean BBQ - wood /hot coal grill at table)
5955 N 5th St
Philadelphia, PA 19120
(215) 939-2056 - Mobile
Jong Ka Jip
(Soft Tofu Restaurant-specialty) The soon dubu chiggae is good here.
6600 N 5th St
Philadelphia, PA 19126
Seo Rah Bol Korean Restaurant
2nd and W. Grange Avenue
has decent naeng myun (also pretty good chajjong myun, champong -Korean-Chinese noodle dishes), good bbq (gas though, not hot coals). Kimchi and banchan is good here too.
Outside of PHilly, East Coast...
Otherwise on the East Coast, the only other place I'd recommend is on Northern Blvd in Flushing/ Queens...
Kum Gang San
Neighborhood: Queens/Downtown Flushing
13828 Northern Blvd
Flushing, NY 11354
EVERYONE!!! I'm probably the first Korean that'll reply here. Here's the best Korean restaurants in philly and outside burbs. And in my opinion, VA has great korean food. Philly is second in East coast. NY is the worst, because it's all fusion with Japanese garbage.
All you can eat kal bi - The best one is located on rt 73 & 611. Second best is on the 6500 block of castor ave.
True authentic Korean food - On 2nd st, Seo Ral Bul is by far the best Korean restaurant.
Tofu, 5th street near Cheltenham.
Gam JJal Tthang, Beef potato stew located on 71st & Market in upper darby - great for sobbering up.
TThang soups, now there's a couple of them, and there'll all located in north 5th street and upper darby.
Korean Chinese food (yes we have our own hybrid) - ALL located on north 5th street.
Meju & Miram is crap. They're really bland and the spices aren't true to their form. There is NO authentic Korean restaurant in center city period.
While I'm not a Korean afficianado, I do have to say that I LOVE Giwa in Philadelphia. I get the Bibimbop which is fantastic. Here's the info, let me know how it compares.
I'm in DE now and would like to try the Kahl-Bee restaurant...does it have similar selections to the Giwa menu attached?
1608 Sansom St, Philadelphia, PA 19103
Meju was kind of an experience for first-time diners on Korean fare. We had nothing with which to acurately compare our menu choices but here was our experience:
We went without a reservation, as we'd only decided to try it on a last-second whim, after having walked past the place every day since it opened.
At 5:20 PM we were the first "First Friday" people to arrive. Very low-key staff, not a lot of interest in our presence -- no water, no offer of an ice bucket for wine -- but that's not horrible, I just wondered if we showed up too early.
We received our Korean "banchan", which consisted of small dishes of kim-chi cabbage, cucumber, radish, and broccoli. We were also given about fifteen fermented black beans (are they supposed to seem partially cooked in that they stick to your teeth?), as well as some crunchy, hair-like strands of fried squid. All served pre-meal.
The "Mandu" steamed shrimp dumplings (we also noticed it said pork on the menu but whatever) were good, compared to many Chinese versions we've eaten over the years. Very tender, not sticky, gummy, and served with a mild ginger soy dipping sauce.
The "Duk Bok Gi" spicy rice cake w/ veg. & fish cake wasn't at all what it sounded like. They were dense pillows of rectangular pasta sautéed in red pepper sauce, which were quite gummy. I guess they are made of rice flour but should in no way be mistaken for what a newbie would consider a rice cake to be. Fish cakes were mixed in with the rice pasta and were these flat, pressed pieces of a chewy seafood variety of unknown origin. I've had them before at Shiao Lan King Restaurant and was not quite sure what to think then either. It seems to be a filler staple of Asian cuisine?
By far the coolest thing they had was "Dol-Sot Bibim Bob" fiery stone rice bowls. We got ours with chicken and the rice was quick to cook into crazy, crispy, hard pellets if not scraped up off the sides in a timely fashion. The whole thing stayed hot from first to last bite and it was quite good. They serve you spicy red pepper sauce on the side but that's about it.
Also we tried the "Yook Gae Jang" spicy beef soup served with rice -- the waitress had to ask if they were serving it tonight, which, considering the menu only has a few items on it, kind of freaked me out -- but it turned out they did.
The shredded beef wasn't a favorite. And the broth was spicy to the nth degree. We were finally offered water three-quarters of the way through our meal but relied, instead, on our bottles of Gwertztraminer to remedy stinging tongues.
By the time our check came there were three more couples seated and ordering so I don't suspect it is doing too poorly. I'm interested in hearing others' opinions and, in the meantime, will attempt to try more Korean joints so my cuisine knowledge isn't so limited.
It may be more than 20 minutes from your house, but Kahl-Bee in Elsmere, DE (just south of Wilmington on Rte. 2) is great. I am nowhere near as experienced in Korean dining as you appear to be, but Kahl-Bee is always full of Korean customers, they do not discriminate for their non-Korean patrons as far as the little side dishes, and the food is delicious. It's not as spicy as Korean food probably should be--I have had much, much spicier Korean food in Asia (believe it or not, I have eaten fantastic Korean in Ulaan Baator, Mongolia)--but it still tastes great.
re: andy deemer
Looking back to my Mongolia photos, it was a place called the Family Korean Restaurant, on Peace Avenue directly across from the Central Department Store. This was in 2005, so no guarantees on whether it's still there, but there were many more Korean places in town also. Nothing else I ate in UB really stood out (except for one decent cup of coffee at a very out-of-place Viennese cafe--but it didn't have a high bar to pass, considering the sorry state of most Mongolian food). I assume there are more restaurants there now than when I was there.
Whereabouts will you travel?
there's the Stonewell in Conshohocken (Ridge Pike near Butler) fair to good.
North 5th street, you will find plenty.. (Kim's BBQ in the 5700 block thereof)..then at the intersection of 5th and Cheltenham youll find plenty of opions. I've not been to the 5th St area in a while, but remember Kim's as very good.