Get Your Goat @ Westborough Korean Restaurant
I'd made a passing mention of Westborough Korean Restaurant (WKR) in the Top 3 of 2011 thread, but it would be a travesty for it not to have a thread unto itself.
Located right at the central rotary of Main St/Milk St/South St, you'll find the bungalow that is Westborough Korean Restaurant. It's totally as homey as it looks, run by a Pusan family, each dish conveys a certain homestyle feel and flavour.
Haemul pajeon (seafood pancake) is about as protein packed as could be without pushing the pajeon towards sogginess, it retains a golden crisp.
A requisite order are the homemade water dumplings, filled with a simply seasoned pork/scallion mix, the dumpling skins are a silky slippery delight.
Soondae (steamed blood sausage) may have the look of intimidation, but is rather benign on blood, not the same kind of mineral-y funk you might get from a traditional morcilla. Dangmyeon (cellophane noodles) and sprouts lend a nice texture of chew and crunch, the whole thing elevated by a dab in chili salt.
On a previous visit, one of the family members had cornered me to rave about the Korean fried chicken, and while very tasty, it's not high on my priority for subsequent orders (I'm not ga-ga about kfc to begin with), and it probably won't make all y'all Bon Chon groupies convert, but it's a fine wingding. I'd have rather opted for extra crispy skin in lieu of the chopped peanut sundae topping.
The main event at WKR, an obvious matter of pride, are the soups and stews, again reflecting the soul of this homestyle kitchen. If you're a soup fanatic like myself, you're gonna slurp yourself silly at WKR. Order the gamjatang (potato and pork spine soup) and you'll be met with a knowing, secret smile. Gamjatang will be the subject of another post, but let me tell you about BLACK GOAT STEW - aka 'yeom sul tang' or, as they transliterate, 'yeongyang jungol', meaning "nutritious casserole". Nutritious and magical indeed. Some say this stew would traditionally use doggy instead of goat, but all agree that it is a highly medicinal, nutritious and cure-all soup for anything and everything that ails ya. And it's particularly good for the virility. Not to mention combating free radicals, oxidants, it can cure cancer and induce labor all at once. While it may appear to be a distant cousin of birria, it's got the healing and soul-satisfying properties of a proper bowl of Jewish penicillin (matzoh ball soup). Order the large, and you'll receive a giant wok-like pan on a gas burner, the pan's contents comprising a mahogany/burnt orange bubbling broth chockful of goat hunks and greenery, all blanketed by perilla leaves and showered with perilla seeds. Order the small, and the same will arrive in a hot stone bowl. By this point you've got a barrage of banchan on the table (decent), among 10 other dishes to hold your interest while you let the stew do its do. If you have no idea what to do next, your server will have sensed this by about minute 8, and will come by the table to press down the leaves, stir up the pot and serve you up a bowl. Pause to take a good whiff, and you know by now what you've gotten yourself into. Aromatized by the herbal and somewhat mint-y notes of perilla and the deep complexity of a garlicky goat broth, the smell will have etched itself in your olfactory memory for DAYS. The broth. The broth is a mystery, but is deeply goat flavoured without being gamey, rich without being greasy, complex and clean, it has an unmistakeable element of true umami perhaps from the addition of doengjang (fermented soybean paste). Some garlic, chile peppers (maybe anaheim?), and what appear to be collards or other similar greens have taken up residence with the unctuous goat for sometime, and then the freshness of scallions, perilla leaves/seeds incorporated at the end add another bright herbal note to balance things out. I appreciate that their version is heavy with the broth, as it is clearly not an afterthought. Typically with this dish (and other stews like it), towards the end the server will come by and add rice and other fixins to the pan to make a goat fried rice over the burner. For some reason, I haven't had this service at WKR, nor have I remembered to ask for it, and quite frankly, I'm okay with that - I'd rather take it home as-is and slurp this sensational soup again the next day.
It's a bit of a haul to get out to Westborough, but I have to think there a bunch of hounds longing for a Korean restaurant like this. Heck, I was relying on trips to LA to get my fix up until now. WKR doesn't just merely scratch the itch, it totally fulfills the jones and thensome.
Westborough Korean Restaurant
7 E Main St
Westborough, MA 01581
PS. there is a wall of handwritten specials that i hope my fellow buds will post pictures of, along with translations (thanks another_adam!), and i believe we have pix of the full menu to be posted too .....
Nab, thanks for writing this up. I hafta say this is the most worthy road trip I've been on in a long time for food... 45 minutes out the pike to the burbs and well worth the toll money.
I love their seafood pancake, crispy and expertly fried with not a hint of greasiness. Chock full of scallions and shrimp, with a bracing dipping sauce. The blood sausage was also a tasty morsel with none of the bloody mineral tang of a black pudding or a morcilla. Scrumptious! Wings are super spicy (head sweating towel worthy) but I could use less of the peanut topping myself. Next time I'll ask them to skip the peanuts but bring the sesame salt to dip.
As noted, the goat stew is the real standout here. Perilla seeds and stems add to the earthy pleasure of the clean lightbright broth, and the succulent strands of goat melt in your mouth. I could drink a bucket of the broth itself, but the protein and veggies make it a complete meal. Nutritious indeed.
I'll upload pix of the wall specials anon. But let me just say if you're dying for a steaming bowl of soup, this is the place to get to, and STAT!
I'm not a very good translator, but here's my stab:
pollack fish stew (saengtae maeun tang)
noodles w/various veggies (momil jaeng ban guksu)
pork stir fry (jaeyuk bokkeum)
pork bossam (jaeyuk bossam)
thick pork soup (dweji guk bap)
mixed noodles (bibim naengmyeon)
Goat stew = "nutritious casserole" (yeongyang jeon gol)
fish/seafood stirfry (maeun haemul bokkeum) 12.95
cod cheek stew (daegu bol jjim)
pork and potato stew (gamja tang)
broiled corvina (chamjogi gui)
chicken/ginseng stew (samgyetang)
seaweed soup (miyeok guk)
octopus stirfry (nakji bokkeum)
The cod cheek stew (daegu bol jjim) is a delight. It's also a massive dish that should either be ordered with a large group or a large amount of alcohol, or ideally both. Big honkin' hunks of crispy fried cod cheeks, a truckload of beansprouts tossed in a gochujang based sauce. The fish had a discernible crispy shell making way to sweet and rich cheekmeat.
That was insane in a good way, Nab! That dish was perhaps 14 inches across and piled about 5 inches high. I took leftovers home and made cod cheek cakes with it. :)
If you saw the new Star Trek movie, "4 Chowhounders destroyed by Cod Cheeks, sir...And it was reported that the Cod Cheeks were in one dish, one MASSIVE dish."
Mmmmm, cod cheek pancakes are an excellent idea! (Presumably with some judicious de-boning first, at least if they're going in the lunchbox?)
I do wish the sauce had had a bit more spice and a bit more sweetness to it, but then again, that probably would have cut down on how many we could have worked our way through :)
Yep, totally solid stews, delicious! Now that you mention it, I'm not sure any of the Korean places in Boston come by to dump in a bunch of noodles or rice as you get to the end of a "casserole" dish, do they? But I agree, with a heartier stew like this, it's nicer to be able to take home the leftover soup, anyway. :)
Here's the menu I grabbed in August— not sure if it's changed by now, but it should be approximately right. I looks like none of the wall specials are listed on it, though. The goat stew (yumso tang, or "yeongyang jeongol") seems to be a wall item, so it definitely is important to take note of the signs!