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Any authentic Korean around here?

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I have a friend who used to live in NYC and loves Korean and says she has not been able to find authentic (or just really good) Korean here in Boston. I would not know 'authentic Korean' if I fell over it, so help me out here. Where is the best Korean in the Boston area?

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  1. Am no expert, nor am I Korean, but has she tried Korean Garden in Allston or Wuchon House in Union Sq. in Somerville? Allston, of course, also has Color, Hanmaru, Roppongi, Buk Kyung II, etc.

    -----
    Roppongi
    1243 Commonwealth Ave, Allston, MA 02134

    Buk Kyung
    MA, MA

    Korean Garden
    122 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134

    Hanmaru Restaurant
    168 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134

    2 Replies
    1. re: Taralli

      unfortunately wuchon house closed back in february

      1. re: galangatron

        *delete*

        -----
        Buk Kyung
        MA, MA

    2. I would say that Boston has a number of "quite good" Korean places, notably Chung Ki Wa in Medford, but nothing really outstanding. I am very sad that Wu Chon House has closed. Koreana has some good dishes on its menu. The original Buk Kyung (i.e. Hometown) in Union Square, Somerville, is good for a particular variety of Korean food. Your friend would also probably enjoy a trip to H-Mart in Burlington or to Myung Dong 1st Ave in Allston.

      -----
      Koreana
      154 Prospect Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

      Chung Ki Wa
      27 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

      H-Mart
      3 Old Concord Rd, Burlington, MA 01803

      4 Replies
      1. re: lipoff

        Had lunch at Buk Kyung in Union Square today. I have no idea if it's authentic, but it's mighty tasty. We shared the kimchi omelet and the spicy seafood stew (luncheon special). The banchan is fine, certainly not a dizzying array of flavors. but their kimchi blows my home-made stuff outta the park. I suppose it should ... I've made exactly one batch and they've been doing it for years?

        I find the atmosphere really dreary and the sweet proprietress really kind. But if it's about the food, I think this place is worth a visit. They will be having chilled noodles (buckwheat) in July.

        -----
        Buk Kyung
        MA, MA

        1. re: yumyum

          I agree with the general comments her about Buk Kyung. The restaurant is nothing special to look at but the food always reminds me of my mom's own homecooking.

          -----
          Buk Kyung
          MA, MA

          1. re: CreativeFoodie42

            I love BK as well, especially the ja-jun-myen. Delicious toothsome noodles with salty black bean seafood sauce.

            1. re: Prav

              My parents are friends with the owners and I've been eating the jajangmyun noodles there for years! I love that they bring you scissors - so old school.

      2. i like color and roppongi in allston for korean fried chicken, buk kyung/hometown in somerville and buk kyung II in allston for korean-style chinese food, chung ki wa in medford and koreana in cambridge for korean bbq, and minsok in brookline and korean garden in allston for all around korean food. i'm sure i'm forgetting others

        there are a bunch of korean stands in the food court at h-mart in burlington. i like woojeon (the stand next to the panchan section) the best. you can also get patbingsoo (korean shaved ice) at color, between hours pc cafe in allston, and tous le jours bakery in the h-mart food court

        1. I'm also no expert, but I do have a Korean friend who lives in the 'burbs (he grew up in Korea and moved here as an adult) and every time he comes into the city to visit he insists we go to Yasu in Coolidge Corner. He introduced me to bibimbap there.

          4 Replies
          1. re: BobB

            We went to Yasu years ago and then recently and enjoyed it both times. We've been to Korea a couple of times between these visits and the difference is that I now find Yasu a bit Americanized. Things are a little sweeter and less spicy. But overall, it's not bad. Anyone from Korea will find issues with any of the places we have. Asian restaurants here have to serve everything as opposed to specializing in the one or two dishes they do best. In Korea, places may serve noodles or stews or suchi but not usually all three. Hence, very few dishes at any one restaurant are really good.

            1. re: gourmaniac

              Any recommendations? We're thinking of going there Saturday night.

              1. re: Berheenia

                The things i've liked are the Tofu stew and the spicy squid (a little chewy though). they have a nice spread of panchan but nothing out of the ordinary. I see a lot of Koreans having the BBQ table (bulgogi or galbi) but not tried this myself. For reference, galbi was the one thing in Korea that i was dissapointed about from the price to quality point.

                1. re: gourmaniac

                  We went with some Korean savvy diners and everyone loved it. We had two selections of bulgogi and after ordering some watery drinks stuck with Sapporo. After dinner we went to the new Jae's - Buddachen- for some non watery drinks in the bar. The dining room was dead.Thanks for your suggestions.

          2. Seoul Food, a tiny Mom and Pop on Mass Ave in Cambridge, serves what Koreans eat at home with very reasonable prices.
            Robert Snyder

            7 Replies
            1. re: rsnyder

              Oh man, I've had the worst experiences there. Mediocre food with gristly meat, and the proprietor lady hovered over my table like some angry mother-in-law.

              1. re: Prav

                Your description and rsnyder's aren't necessarily mutually exclusive :)

                1. re: Prav

                  i had the exact same experience at seoul food. the owner was also really snippy about giving us more panchan

                2. re: rsnyder

                  Agree with Prav, the food at Seoul food is horribly bad. Some of the worst Korean food I have EVER eaten.

                  1. re: StriperGuy

                    Yes, I agree. The only palatable thing there is the bibimbap, but I would avoid Seoul Food if at all possible.

                    1. re: lipoff

                      The lady got so mad at us because one of our party members (we were 5) wanted two sides instead of one entree. Even though the price of the two sides was more than the cheapest entree price. Bizarre, passive behavior.

                      1. re: Prav

                        I am honestly stunned that that place stays in business.

                3. Dah Mee in Natick has really good Korean food IMO. Their kimchee is fantastic.

                  -----
                  Dah Mee
                  25 Washington St, Natick, MA 01760

                  1. We are big fans of Woo Jung in Ayer MA. small family owned dive that has great/authentic korean food.

                    -----
                    Woo Jung Restaurant
                    174 W Main St, Ayer, MA 01432

                    1. There's a Korean BBQ place on Cambridge St. in Burlington which my brother-in-law, who lived in Korea for a year, says is authentic. I think it's tasty, for what it's worth. A quick web search say its name is New Jang Su, but its big sign out front just says "BBQ". It's in a strip mall, and you'd probably never go in if you weren't looking for it.

                      BIL also says the Korean at U-Me in Stoneham is good.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: betseyb

                        My friend of Korean heritage says that his grandmother likes the food at New Jang Su. I'm thinking that's a fairly good indication of authenticity, and really the only thing I have to go on. FWIW, my not at all Asian family enjoys it there, too. We're often the only non-Asian folks in the place.

                        1. re: betseyb

                          I've been here several times and it is very good. Most of the patrons are Korean.

                        2. I've never eaten there myself, but I know a few people who swear by the literal hole-in-the-wall Cafe Han River in Brookline at the St. Marys T stop -- all they get is the Gal-bi (beef short ribs) and they swear by it. I've heard good things about their soups, too, but other than that have heard the rest of the menu is not worthwhile.

                          -----
                          Cafe Han River
                          1009 Beacon St, Brookline, MA 02446

                          1. I think Korean restaurants in Boston are decent but certainly not great. One of the main things that always seems to be sub-par is the quality of the panchan, especially the kimchi. I still have not been to a Korean restaurant in Boston that serves excellent kimchi, which to me is a marker of a really good Korean restaurant.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: Otm_Shank

                              Sadly, I agree.

                              1. re: Otm_Shank

                                I think the place to go for that is New York. Bayside, Queens.

                                1. re: Prav

                                  There are even a couple of decent places in Little Korea on 34th St. in Manhattan. I love Kunjip, and there is also a Korean (white bone) soup place on 34th street that is excellent as well but Queens is the mecca.

                                  1. re: StriperGuy

                                    Mos def, there are one or two places that are 24/7 and they are much better than anything here. Excellent banchan to start... Plus Hangawi in the city.

                                    1. re: tatsu

                                      Try Kunjip if you get a chance. In the summer they serve the bbq with greens from their own garden, incredible assortment including many I had never seen before. (And whoops, it's on 32nd.)

                                      Kun Jip
                                      www.kunjip.net
                                      9 West 32nd Street
                                      New York, NY 10001-3810
                                      (212) 216-9487

                                      1. re: StriperGuy

                                        second Kunjip.

                              2. As was mentioned above, a real problem with Boston-area Korean restaurants is that they offer way too many things on their menu, with the result that either none of them is all that great, or the few good things are buried among a bunch of serviceable or mediocre options. A few specific dishes that come to mind, though: (none of these will probably change anyone's mind about whether Boston has great Korean food, but they're recognizable renditions)

                                - I've been enjoying Myeongdong First Ave. I'd mainly stick with the back of the menu where the drinking foods (anju) live, though I've also enjoyed their chogaetang (clam soup) and altang (roe soup). They also mention on the wall that they have haejangguk ("hangover soup", with ox blood) but I haven't managed to have it yet.

                                - I find that Korean Garden in Allston generally has the best banchan, and has been all around solid. Their bibimbap is good, and I've had good luck with their soups and stews. Also, I once got a surprisingly good and generous version of hoi naengmyeon there- usually naengmyeon is tricky because you only want to get it at a place that specializes in it, but they have chingnaengmyeon (칡냉면) made with kudzu starch, and they were very generous with the skate wing.

                                - Color (on Harvard in Allston) seems to have been less good lately than I remember, but in the winter months, I do enjoy their rabokki (ramen + ddeokbokki) with fishcakes.

                                - As mentioned above, Hanmaru has a good version of gamjatang (potato/pork bone soup).

                                - Minsok in Brookline is generally rather overpriced and disappointing, though I've had a good version of nakji bokkeum (stir-fried octopus) there. Their pajeon is also alright, and they have makkeoli (fermented rice wine). They also have hwedopbap (raw fish and lettuce on rice)

                                -----
                                Minsok Restaurant
                                92 Harvard Sq, Brookline, MA 02445

                                Korean Garden
                                122 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                                Hanmaru Restaurant
                                168 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                                1. A little late to the game, but for those looking at this thread-- if you must to korean food in Boston, prepare for a complete let down, and you'll be better off.

                                  The general consensus here on good/quality/authentic Korean food in Boston is that there is NOT. I've been hoping for a decent one going on 10 years now. Boston has the worst Korean restaurants of all major metro area in the U.S.that I've lived in -- NY, DC, LA, SF, SD, Seattle. The only town that Boston tops in Korean food quality - mentioned this here before- is in Jasper, Canana.

                                  Traditional restaurant style:

                                  Koreana-- horrible horrible taste. If you're used to authentic flavorful Korean food, you need only one bite into their banchan to regret. This place puts its name to shame.

                                  Shila -- the area students with no options. This place can't even handle nang myun... modified americanized...

                                  Chung Ki Wa -- unidentifiable quality galbi meat. "is this for human consumption?" is what our group thought. Their daenjang jigae is decent though, and banchan is varied.

                                  Hanmaru - specialty gam ja tang-- I could never stomach organ meats, but ample portion, and if you crave spicy tang at a specialty place then... this is the only option.

                                  SNACKY 'bun sik jum":

                                  Buk-kyung I or II -- snacky food is their speciality afterall -- jajangmyun and tangsuyook. Very mininal banchan- beansprout/napa kimchi/gak du gi is about it. sterile cafeteria food taste. can't even recommend their jajangmyun, and definitely not other korean dishes if you're seeking quality. we do however find decor in bk II in allston up to date.

                                  Myeongdong First Ave: owned by the buk-kyung folks. similar taste. can get more varied menu items that the do not offer (chul pan yori). pricy, and can't say it's good. more a drink/anju type place. (this place doesn't stay open particularly late either considering what they present themselves to be)

                                  Color -- known for their spicy chicken- kan puyng gi, junky. sugary.

                                  Cho cho's (still around?) - americanized epitomized --sugary.

                                  -----
                                  Koreana
                                  154 Prospect Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                  Chung Ki Wa
                                  27 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

                                  Hanmaru Restaurant
                                  168 Harvard Ave, Allston, MA 02134

                                  8 Replies
                                  1. re: Chris in MA

                                    Which place would you say has the best and most-varied panchan?

                                    1. re: Prav

                                      For Panchan Woo-Jung gives you cucumber, 2 different cabbage (one pickled, one plain?), radish, sprouts, sometimes a 6th one which is onion or some yellow veggie-peppers? but usually just those 5. They are all REALLY good though and they refill them without you asking.

                                      1. re: hargau

                                        Do any area Korean restaurants give the thin-sliced cold fish cake anymore? Or the tiny lil' anchovies? I'm a bit over-raddished.

                                        1. re: Prav

                                          Minsok usually has fish cake, but I haven't seen anchovies lately...Pity...Either that, or I don't get out enough...
                                          We went to Dah Mee for the first time last Saturday. Excellent hwu dup bap, so many places don't put the good pickled bibimbap veggies in when they do fish, but, THEIR BANCHAN WAS A LA CARTE, and we both had Korean dishes! So how authentic can they be? We didin't order banchan, because we didin't realize it til after ordering, but will next time to see if they measure up...

                                          -----
                                          Dah Mee
                                          25 Washington St, Natick, MA 01760

                                          Minsok Restaurant
                                          92 Harvard Sq, Brookline, MA 02445

                                          1. re: Prav

                                            Chung Ki Wa has fishcake quite often when I'm there (which is not all that often). They used to have the candied anchovies often too but I haven't seen those in a while. Maybe the price went up? Their banchan veered more vegetarian when the economy tanked but lately I've seen more more non-veg. They still normally have more variety from visit to visit than many other places I've tried (speaking as a usually solo diner and hence unlikely to get the number & variety that a group might get). Dang, I'm overdue for a lunch.

                                            -----
                                            Chung Ki Wa
                                            27 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

                                      2. re: Chris in MA

                                        Whoa there. I don't disagree that Boston's Korean food is extremely disappointing compared to other major metropolitan areas. I can't figure out exactly what is going on --- maybe the unusual number of good Korean markets in this area encourages people to make Korean food at home? (H-Mart, J & K Han A Rum Oriental Market, John's Market, Reliable Market, and Lotte Market in that order!) However, I think Chris is being unfair, and I wanted to write back less to defend Boston's admittedly poor showing of Korean food, but because I think his post sells some places really short.

                                        Koreana is not so bad. In fact, I think that many of their soups are excellent, even if I don't like their BBQ as much. I don't see anything wrong with their banchan, but if you go with a large party the variety of banchan is much greater. The service is excellent, the vegetarian sushi is legitimately good, and I'd go back just for the soo jong gwa (persimmon/cinnamon punch served after the meal).

                                        Chung Ki Wa I also totally disagree about. The BBQ is quite good at Chung Ki Wa, good noodle dishes as well, and fine banchan.

                                        Buk-kyung I (in Union Square) is much better than Buk-Kyung II (in Allston). They may share the name (meaning "Beijing" in Korean, signifying that they serve a kind of Korean-Chinese food) but they are two very different restaurants.

                                        Myung Dong 1st Ave has a quite different menu than Buk-Kyung II, including many dishes you can't find elsewhere. Is it great? Not even close. Is it pretty good? Yeah, I'd say so, even without "soju goggles" on.

                                        Cho Cho's and Shilla are both terrible, just as you describe. But I think Shilla is mercifully gone from Harvard Square, no?

                                        Finally, a few quick notes. I'm not sure I'd call Ma Soba on Cambridge St in Boston a Korean restaurant (they're Pan-Asian, but owned by Koreans) but their Galbi is excellent. I thought Wu Chon House in Somerville was Boston's best Korean restaurant, but they have recently closed. Perhaps they will reopen in a better location? Also, I think the best banchan are at a market, the J & K Han A Rum Oriental Market in North Cambridge.

                                        So again, I don't disagree that Boston has generally poor Korean food. But there are some bright spots, and I don't think all hope has to be abandoned.

                                        -----
                                        Koreana
                                        154 Prospect Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                                        Chung Ki Wa
                                        27 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

                                        Wu Chon
                                        Somerville, MA, 02143, Somerville, MA 02143

                                        Shilla Restaurant
                                        57 Jfk St Ste 9, Cambridge, MA 02138

                                        1. re: lipoff

                                          Interestingly, my theory about the Korean restaurant scene here (which, I have to admit, I also find dismal) has always been that's because of the relative *lack* of good Korean markets in the area! True, some of the ones mentioned above are decent, but H-Mart is the only one I'd actually consider reasonably fully stocked. I'm kind of hoping that with the advent of H-Mart, we might start seeing some dishes on local menus that previously would have required making special arrangements to bring ingredients up from NYC. For sure, it has made it much more possible to cook a range of things at home, though (which is. indeed, what we generally do)

                                          On the restaurant front, I totally agree, btw, that Myung Dong 1st Ave and Buk-kyeong are totally different beasts- surprisingly so, in fact! (I really don't like Buk-kyeong, but I do rather like Myeong Dong 1st Ave!).

                                          -----
                                          H-Mart
                                          3 Old Concord Rd, Burlington, MA 01803

                                          1. re: lipoff

                                            Thank you for this post, L.

                                            I find that many of these Boston-area Korean food posts are SO reactionary that they're really not very useful (e.g., describing a restaurant as "inedible", "horrible horrible taste").