Lately, we’ve become fairly obsessed with Korean food. When Mr Foodie and I traveled to Vietnam for my work a few years ago, we had an 18 hour layover in Seoul. Of course,
we took a food tour and had our first experience with kimchi jjigae, or kimchi and tofu stew, a dish that that blew our sinuses and our minds. After that, we actively sought Korean food in the US and had some experiences that only reinforced our newfound foodie interest at Woo nam Jeong Stone Bowl House in Atlanta and at the Dolsot house near my family’s home in Cherry Hill, NJ. We’ve been on the prowl for a comparable experience here in the Ham.
So, when a friend told us that Seoul Garden on Greensprings had new owners and a new-and-improved menu, we didn’t waste any time. We’ve been there twice since. The first time, it was just Mr Foodie and I. Then, to scientifically confirm our findings, we went back with Sandy and Ben of Chef John Hall post fame. Sandy and Ben are both excellent foodies. Sandy also happens to be Korean-American, travels to South Korea regularly (Ben has been there too), and makes her own homemade kimchi. In other words, we came prepared.
First, check out the restaurant’s new exterior. They are advertising healthy, organic food. Good news is, as our waitress also told us, if you need to buy some LEDs you can get that taken care of here too. One stop shopping.
The same very attentive waitress greeted us at both visits, and walked us through her favorite parts of the menu. The second time, she remembered us and seemed really delighted that we had returned and brought friends. After a few minutes scouring the menu, we all ordered.
Mr Foodie got the plum tea. A generous amount of macerated plum and sugar flavors this delicious drink. Those are pine nuts floating on top. Yep, this place is legit.
First, the little side dishes you always get at the start of every Korean meal, called banchan, arrived. Our server mentioned they are made by the owner every day. Sandy, our kimchi expert, verified my initial instincts. The cabbage kimchi was delicious-not extremely spicy, probably meaning it was relatively recently made-but the flavors were spot on. The pickled cucumbers and radishes were similarly excellent, as was the fish cake, which had a savory and slightly sweet taste.
Next, the entrees. First, my standard-dol sot bim bim bap. A plate of beef and veggies over rice, topped with an egg, served on a hot stone pot. To eat this, you mix the whole thing together with chili paste. As spicy as you make it, and with the flavor and texture of the egg yolk holding things together, absolutely delicious. The best part is that the rice gets a little crispy on the bottom.
Next, the kimchi stew. If got mine with pork. I’m gonna go out on a limb and say this is the best stew in town. Spicy enough to cleanse the sinuses, a little sweet thanks to the seasoning on the pork, with delicious soft tofu and cabbage. Served with steamed white rice to sop up the flavor. I ordered this both times. Nuff said.
Next up, the fire chicken. Spicy and flavorful chicken, perfectly moist and tender. A place that knows how to cook chicken so well can be hard to find, but this was on point. The flavors were outstanding.
The squid and vegetable stir fry had similar flavors, and the squid was great too-not rubbery at all. Tender and delicious.
And for another beautiful picture-the dumpling soup. Isn’t this photogenic? Delicious pork? dumplings with veggies and noodles, topped with a seaweed garnish. A nice milder complement to our very spicy choices. Hearty and delicious.
What was really striking was how light the food tasted-filling, but not the least bit greasy. And it got the Sandy authenticity seal of approval. Authentic Korean food in a strip mall on Greensprings… that’s why I love this town. Expect the unexpected.