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!
Thanks everyone for telling me about this place - a group of us ended up here last night, and I thought the meal was really great. Probably the best Korean food I've had in New England.
We shared the following:
- Vegetables scallion pancake - The "vegetables" seemed to mostly be onion, so I wasn't hugely impressed by this. Would have rather had the seafood one, but my dining companions were less keen. But texture was good, and was crisply fried. Chili dipping sauce wasn't as spicy as it looked.
- Water dumplings - These were very good, very homemade tasting (if that makes sense). The filling had strong notes of white pepper, which I liked. Definitely a comfort food.
-Spicy rice cakes - Chewy rice cakes in a sweet and spicy bright red sauce. This was a good version of this dish - the sauce was well-balanced and not overly goopy or sweet.
-Dolsot bi bim bap - Served sizzling with an egg cracked over the top (still very runny). This was one of the best bi bim baps I've ever had. The pot was super hot, so lots of rice got brown and crispy, and the egg was runny enough to get distributed through the whole dish and add a nice richness. Yum
- Japchae - I only had two bites of these, and they were good. But somewhat boring compared to the other things on the table.
- Dok Guk - Very mild soup with sliced rice cakes, eggs and noodles. I love the texture of the rice cakes, so I enjoyed this, and it was a nice counterpoint to the spicier things on the table
- Pork bulgogi - We almost didn't order this, since so many of the stews sounded interesting, but this was fantastic. A very big serving of sweet bbq pork, served with lettuce wraps, bean paste and raw garlic (I passed on the garlic). Some of the best pork bulgogi I've ever had, including at restaurants that specialize in Korean BBQ.
- Goat stew - This was on the specials wall (which is written in both English and Korean). I think I liked this better than my dining companions...but I thought it was really great. Very spicy. Lots of goat meat (off the bone), which was quite tender, and lots of greens, mustard seeds, and some pieces of cabbage and chili. We ended up taking a lot of this home, and I think I am going to use it to make Korean-fusion goat tacos, which I think might be awesome. Will report back on this.
All of this came with rice and a very nice selection of panchan (about 10 things). My favorite of the panchan was the eggplant, which was tender and sweet.
Thanks so much to the Hounds who alerted me to this place....would never have gone here otherwise. It made for a good meeting point w/ some friends who live in Worcester, so I'm glad we tried it!
re: Dave MP
Dave, I like your order, you guys managed to cut a wide swath through the menu sampling different cooking techniques - soups, stews, wok-dishes, grilled dishes, etc - thanks for the report. Last time we were there, a plate of kalbi hit the table near us and apparently tatsu and I both had the same cartoonish whiplash reaction to the intoxicating smell that permeated the air - you could practically *see* the cloud of ricewine-infused meatsmoke that wafted its way over to our table. Glad you enjoyed your meal and thanks for coming back with the additional datapoints.