Sunday, April 5, 2009

Smoking Sunday #6

This week I decided to venture back into Asia and try out a Jang Guem a Korean Restaurant. It's located down Bellaire and is one of many many asian food places along the street. Jang Guem is a Korean Tofu and BBQ house that originally became popular in California and has slowly moved eastward.

I was excited about eating here as asian barbecued food is generally a treat. When we went in the decor was modest except for the floor which was very nicely made out of wood and stone.

Upon sitting down we were presented with a simple salad. The salad was dressed with a rice vinegar type dressing and was actually very pleasant. As David isn't big on salads I ate mine and most of his.

The menu is rather small and mostly consist of you guessed it korean style barbecue dishes and tofu soups. We ordered our entrees. David ordered BBQ pork with cold noodles and I ordered Korean BBQ with Seafood Tofu Soup.

Almost immediately six dishes of various pickled dishes were set in front of us (from bottom left to top right: tofu, seaweed, cucumber, bean sprouts, cabbage and a chili like paste) and then a whole fried mackerel was set in front of us. As we were the only diners in the restaurant at this time we had no idea what to do. The soup bowl we were each given really knocked me off guard and my initial inclination was that this would be used for the soup I had ordered.

When the waitress came over I asked her what this was for and she gave me a stupid look and said, "Eat". O yes how simple it is. The fish was ok but not great. The meat was good but there were a ton of bones to sort through and as the fish was whole you had to sort through alot of the undesirable parts (entrails and the like). As far as the pickled dishes were concerned we both really liked the tofu. It had almost a sweet and salty flavor and was the best of the six by far. The seaweed was average and the same could be said for the bean sprouts and cabbage. The main difference in flavor was mostly textural and none of them were very memorable good or bad. The cucumber was something I was disappointed in as you could tell they had been sliced way in advance and perhaps overnight as they were soggy and not very palatable. I enjoyed the chili paste though could not find a good use for it during my meal aside from eating it with some of my korean barbecue.

The tofu soup was brought out in a hot stone bowl and was literally at a rapid boil when it hit the table. It was filled with a hefty portion of tofu and seafood. Though oddly the shrimp was not shelled so you had to pick them out and eat them. I found this annoying and cumbersome. Not to mention they were about 200 degrees. I have to say though that the soup was very very good and easily the highlight of the entire meal.

David got cold noodles which was a bunch of dark colored (buckwheat) noodles that you poured an almost ice cold broth on top of .

I had no taste for this dish whatsoever. The noodles were gooey and the flavor was bland. The absence of any flavor profile and the extremely undesirable texture discouraged me from eating much of it. Maybe David could give a better description. All I know is he didn't even come close to finishing it.

The Korean barbecue was good. It had a nice char on the outside and was very lightly glazed in a sweet sauce (I believe Housin). I enjoyed it, but again there was nothing memorable about it that separated it from food at low budget Asian restaurants.

David's BBQ pork was good as well. It was marinated in a chili sauce and then cooked with green onions, onions, and chili sauce. We ordered that and the soup "extra spicy" and neither was mouth burning. I was actually disappointed as one of our missions has been to find something extremely spicy to the point where we can't eat it (weird I know).

Our total bill was 33.70 and I was disappointed overall. The amount of food when taken into account everything we received was alot; the only problem was that nothing was memorable or very tasty (aside from the seafood soup). There definitely was some appeal in the uniqueness of the dining experience though I can't say that it was worth the amount we paid. I wouldn't recommend this restaurant as I feel that it is too expensive given that the food is average.

Value: 5 out of 10
Taste: 5.5 out of 10
Overall: 5.5 out of 10
Ambiance: Moderately decorated though really liked the floor.

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