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Good alternative to Koreana for large group on Christmas day?

It's somewhat of a tradition after several years now, but every Christmas my parents, ILs, sister, BIL, SIL, and various other relatives, friends who didn't make it home, etc. descend on our place for Christmas day and we all go to Koreana for lunch. None of us are Korean or have visited Korea, so none of us have any strong opinions on how the food should taste, and for the most part everyone's been pretty happy with it. We have quite a few vegetarians and some kids with food allergies, and everyone's always been able to find something to eat and enjoyed it, and the food is easily shared by groups as well (sushi, BBQ at the table, noodle hot pots, etc.). Service has been good, bathrooms are clean, and it's easy for us to get to. But I've known from a good college friend who is Korean (and grew up in Korea), that Koreana is "just OK...like OK if you are in the neigbourhood and need to eat, not so great that you'd make a special trip and drive". Admittedly, knowing the food was "nothing special" always bothered me a little (even though it fulfilled all kinds of other important criteria very well). So this year I was considering venturing out somewhere different and am looking for ideas. Specifically, I'm looking for a place that will:

-accomodate a large group well (around 20 people), including multiple children
-have a decent selection of vegetarian items
-have dishes that do not normally contain eggs, milk, nuts, or seafood (for example, at Koreana, my DS1 who is allergic to all those things could have many different items including kalbi, jap chae, bi bim bap, vegetarian sushi, etc.)

What other places might fulfill these criteria? It doesn't have to be "the best" of any type of cuisine or blow anyone's socks off (most of my relatives aren't "into" food the way CHers are, though they do enjoy food). Somewhere with good food, nice pleasant surroundings, where children will be welcome (need high chairs), and friendly service. Thanks for any ideas.

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Koreana
154 Prospect Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

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  1. Are you looking for Korean BBQ specifically? Chung Ki Wa in Medford would fit the bill - all the Korean standards plus a large private room with no fee. I don't know if they are open on Christmas. And consensus of all the Koreans I know is that it's better than Koreana.

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    Koreana
    154 Prospect Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

    Chung Ki Wa
    27 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

    1. Certainly Chung Ki Wa and New Jang Su would be good suggestions to upgrade food-wise.

      On the one hand I do agree with your friends that Koreana is "just ok" food-wise. Some things on their menu though, particularly the kimchi pancake, their big soups for two, and the after-the-meal soo jeong gwa are out and out excellent. But the banchan, and the BBQ meats are indeed "nothing special" although also not bad. Surprisingly good sushi as well.

      But on the other hand, I enjoy myself every time I go to Koreana, which is often with a group of all Koreans. The space is nice, the staff are very pleasant (many of their waitresses are among the most hospitable I've ever encountered), the menu is vast, it's a good space for large groups, and the location is very good. All in all, I like the place a lot.

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      Koreana
      154 Prospect Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

      Chung Ki Wa
      27 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

       
       
       
       
      2 Replies
      1. re: lipoff

        Yes, it's a pleasant, clean space for large groups and the service was always good. I recall quite a few work gatherings there (which is what gave me the idea to bring our families there actually). In fact, I think almost all my experiences with Koreana have been in a large group, and in all cases, while no one was bowled over by the food, the total "experience" was always good enough that we returned. I had a colleague who really enjoyed their tongue (but he was Persian, not Korean) and ordered it every time.

        Thanks for the tips. I'll check out Chung Ki Wa sometime before December and then make a final decision. It sounds like the space at New Jang Su might not be what I'd like for Christmas day...though it looks worth a visit for the food some other time.

        Oh, and I'm certainly open to non-Korean suggestions as well.

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        Koreana
        154 Prospect Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

        Chung Ki Wa
        27 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

        1. re: little.tiger

          Chung Ki Wa is very kid-friendly - we've been several times with our small, active children (and several more times without them!). We haven't made it out to New Jang Su yet but lots of ofther Korean adoptive families that we know have been, so I imagine that they'd be kid-friendly too.

          In my experience, the service has been uneven at CKW - sometimes it's fine, sometimes we get a waitress who seems disinterested.

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          Chung Ki Wa
          27 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

      2. I recently replied to another post with almost the identical answer, but also check out Apgujung in Newton. They accomodated our pre-wedding dinner quite well.

        I really like Chung Ki Wa, but the atmosphere is just ok. The private room is a bit nicer.

        Both of these places might be closed for xmas, so please check!

        I wonder if Bull in Harvard Sq (on JFK) will be open by then. That might be another option.

        PS Your family sounds totally cool!

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        Chung Ki Wa
        27 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

        Apgujung
        1114 Beacon St, Newton, MA

        11 Replies
        1. re: digga

          Maybe Apgujung did something nicer knowing it was a pre-wedding dinner, or maybe my two experiences there have been aberrant, but they were so poor I cannot recommend Apgujung at all.

          Trying to think outside the Korean box, Fuloon might be a nice choice. They have many large tables, and also a private room in the back that seats up to 25, and definitely lots of Chinese food doesn't contain eggs, milk, nuts, or seafood. Or Sichuan gourmet in Brookline? Sol Azteca in Brookline?

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          Sol Azteca
          914A Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02215

          Apgujung
          1114 Beacon St, Newton, MA

          1. re: lipoff

            Fuloon sounds so good I am saving it for a meal with just my parents, sister and her DH since they are the real chowhounds in the group ;) But thanks for fair warning about Apgujung.

            I don't eat out very often, but the week between Xmas and New Year's is a serious chowfest. I have to plan carefully and pace myself! DH and I might even make it out for a night alone.

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            Apgujung
            1114 Beacon St, Newton, MA

          2. re: digga

            Thanks :)

            How can you not try a place called Bull, right? But I'm going to take a pass on that for the one day a year we are all together since my DH's side is all Hindu LOL! We'll check it out another time when the ILs are gone.

            1. re: little.tiger

              we've brought big family groups to Dok Bua. Very good thai food, very family friendly, and very vegan friendly.

              1. re: teezeetoo

                Sort of along those lines, YoMa for Burmese.

                1. re: Aromatherapy

                  love yoma but don't see it for a group of 20

              2. re: little.tiger

                LOL! Bull = fire in Korean phonetically. I really think they need to work on the name for PR purposes, unless they are aiming for the Korean student population in Cambridge.

                Re: lipoff re: Apgujung...my parents, B, and I did a trial run before the pre-wedding meal and we thought it was fine. Most importantly, it seemed a safe place where everyone in our party could feel comfortable and find something to eat. But I didn't mean to advertise it necessarily as a "chowish" place, but as a place that might be fun for groups, where you can cook your own meat, and easy parking is available. I definitely trust your palate - it is probably always on high "chow" alert! Sometimes, you just have to let things go for the greater good.... LOL!

                1. re: digga

                  I didn't realize that. But I guess the name still makes me feel like I'm dragging a group of Hindus to a steakhouse (bad bad daughter-in-law!), and I'd be worried they'd see it as such. I actually think it's hilarious.

                  Yes, I think digga got the gist of what I was looking for...the greater good. The food doesn't need to be superb by CH standards, though obviously, it would be nice, and I wouldn't take anyone anywhere I thought the food was all out bad (even if they wouldn't recognize it as such). Am hoping to check out Chung Ki Wa today.

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                  Chung Ki Wa
                  27 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

                  1. re: little.tiger

                    Just keep in mind about Chung Ki Wa - the atmosphere is a little bleak. Ask them to see the small private room. Will they be open on xmas day? I'd be surprised if they are. Good luck!

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                    Chung Ki Wa
                    27 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155

                    1. re: digga

                      I see what you mean now. It's a bit drab for Christmas, though they will be open. The food was good though, so not a waste of our trip. The family shared a mung bean pancake, jab chae, bi bim bab, sundubu chigae and a duk mandu guk. Finished everything, including 8 kinds of panchan that were served. Service was fine. My eldest loved the daikon/carrot panchan and they refilled it twice for us. The tableware looked a bit...uh...used. The soup bowls were black but so much of the paint peeled off, there was more red showing through. They brought out what I assume is the Korean version of Yakult with the bill, which is less nice to finish a meal than the persimmon pinenut drink at Koreana. This is a decent place to eat, but not a special occasion place.

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                      Koreana
                      154 Prospect Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                      1. re: little.tiger

                        The persimmon/pinenut drink at Koreana is called su jeong gwa (수정과), and it also includes ginger and maybe a little peppercorn as well as some sugar or honey for sweetness. It's perhaps my favorite thing about Koreana! I like Koreana a lot, but I think the food is a little better at Chung Ki Wa. I've only been out to New Jang Su in Burlington once, but that one time the food was superlative!

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                        Koreana
                        154 Prospect Street, Cambridge, MA 02139

                        Chung Ki Wa
                        27 Riverside Ave, Medford, MA 02155