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Review of a New Jersey Korean restaurant in NY Times

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  • llbholt
    Don t turn me in to the copyright police! :-) Here s a NY Times (NJ section) review of a Korean restaurant in north central New Jersey, for anyone who s
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 26, 2004
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      Don't turn me in to the copyright police! :-) Here's a NY Times (NJ
      section) review of a Korean restaurant in north central New Jersey,
      for anyone who's interested. Linda

      February 15, 2004, Sunday

      NEW JERSEY WEEKLY DESK
      RESTAURANTS; A Korean Adventure
      By KARLA COOK
      EDISON -- WHEN there is talk about Korean food, and there is not
      much, the conversation tends toward kimchi, bibimbap and barbecue.
      But that triumvirate is the barest branch of a centuries-old cuisine
      that is generally exceedingly fresh, deliciously exotic and
      delightfully cheap. When friends arranged dinner at a Korean
      restaurant with new friends, one of whom is Korean-American, I went
      hungry and looking for adventure.

      I was satisfied on both fronts.

      Keum Ho Jung is tucked into a strip mall right off Route 1 South,
      with a mailing address of Edison but a world away from the vibrant
      Indian community that I associate with the town. It is the second
      such venture for the owner, Joyce Kim, who came to the United States
      from Seoul in 1980.

      Inside, the décor is family-friendly, with Fleetwood Mac on the sound
      system, a cuckoo clock on the wall and the welcoming aroma of
      grilling meat that gathers in the fibers of your clothing and stays.

      On one Saturday night, we got a table after about a 20-minute wait,
      allowing us time to browse the aisles of the nearby Asian market. The
      spot was a tight fit for six, made smaller by the center grill pit
      and the hulking hood overhead, but the company was good.

      It was a luxury to turn the ordering over to my new Korean-American
      friend. What won't you eat, he asked me. When I said that there
      almost nothing I would not try, he smiled and caught the server's
      eye. With a gesture, life turned spicy at our table.

      Korean food is one of the most assertive of the Asian genre, with
      kimchi -- the fermented cabbage that functions as appetizer, main
      dish and foundation ingredient -- as its star. Typical flavorings of
      garlic, red pepper, onions, ginger, fish sauce and soy sauce pervade
      cabbage and cuisine alike; it is an assault on the palate that is the
      opposite of ice cream but with a similar effect: your mouth turns
      numb but you want more.

      The meal began gently with a generous assortment of house-made
      panchan, small appetizers or side dishes sometimes collectively
      called kimchi (and always including it). There was a dish of cold
      watercress. A dish of sesame-flavored bean sprouts. A tangle of teeny-
      tiny whole dried anchovies, deep-fried, sautéed zucchini, green
      salad, gelled tofu. There was also raw crab pieces sopped in a spicy
      sauce of hot pepper, garlic, sesame oil and onion. The only thing I
      missed was the tiny bowl of black soybeans glistening with a glaze of
      brown sugar, garlic and soy sauce, but it barely seems worth
      mentioning.

      As those foods disappeared, the server presented a memorably unusual
      food -- pork bossam -- a composition of boiled tricolor pork belly
      from skin in, boiled Chinese cabbage, daikon radish sparked with hot
      pepper and a raft of raw oysters.

      To eat it, you slather a bit of house-made hot sauce onto a cabbage
      leaf, lay the pork belly on top, add some radish and then an oyster.
      Wrap it up and eat.

      Pork bossam works only with the freshest ingredients, and at Keum Ho
      Jung, the foods I tried qualified. The slight pungency of the cabbage
      worked in concert with the slow burn of the daikon and the slippery
      brininess of the oyster to bolster the layers of pork and enhance
      them. If the server had not appeared with twin trays of crackling,
      sputtering coals for our grill and multiple platters of marinated
      meat to slap on top, I would have eaten several more than my share.

      The routine with Korean barbecue is similar to that of pork bossam --
      take a lettuce leaf, apply denjang, which is a fermented soybean
      paste, or samjan, a hot sauce, add meat, roll up and eat -- except
      you must wipe your brow from the heat of the grill before you begin
      again. All grilled meats were uniformly tender and tasty. On a visit
      for lunch the children's food was also credible -- California rolls
      (part of the Japanese section that precedes the regular menu and
      includes rolls, sushi, sashimi, a couple of noodle dishes and a few
      teriyaki selections), fried dumplings and broiled salmon, though that
      was overdone and dry.

      Bibimbap was fairly well received as well, with its crusty bits of
      rice that stuck to the inside of the weathered black stoneware until
      we pulled them off and mixed them into the fried egg, vegetables and
      hot sauce.

      Pancakes had interesting flavor mixes, but were a bit oily -- even my
      favorite with oyster and scallion. The runner-up was one of kimchi,
      scallion and pork, a combination that appears in an intensely
      satisfying soup that would rival the restorative powers of the best
      chicken soup.

      That soup, for which I have scrambled to find a recipe, is kimchi du
      bu jigae, made of meltingly soft tofu, kimchi and pork in a spicy
      beef broth.

      Another table favorite was a tamer tonic, with fermented soybean
      paste, denjang, as a backdrop to zucchini, tofu, green pepper and
      more of that tender pork. Even tamer was the rice cake soup, with its
      smooth, sleek ovals of bright white rice cake against a forest of
      greens in a clear broth. But I wasn't looking for tame.

      The server brought a stack of bowls and a steaming bowl of deep
      orange-red broth brimming with mystery. My friend ladled it out, some
      to all of us, and then some for himself. This, he said, is the soup
      that Koreans will be impressed that you ate. It was spicy beef
      intestine, tripe and vegetable soup with noodles.

      I went for the glory. But at Keum Ho Jung, there is plenty of
      adventure. Guts are not a requirement.

      Keum Ho Jung
      518 Old Post Road No. 12, Edison
      (732) 650-1588

      VERY GOOD

      ATMOSPHERE -- Little tables, men carrying trays of hot coals and
      hulking hoods overhead.
      SERVICE -- Friendly and helpful.
      SMOKING -- No smoking allowed.
      WINE LIST -- Bring your own.
      RECOMMENDED DISHES -- Octopus over rice, noodles with beef and
      vegetables, oyster and scallion pancake, sliced pork with boiled
      cabbage and oysters, beef or squid barbecue, soft tofu and kimchi and
      pork casserole, vegetables and beef over rice in a stone pot.
      PRICE RANGE -- Appetizers, $1.50 to $8; savory pancakes, $13; main
      dishes, $12 to $20; barbecue, $14 to $19; soups and stews, $9 to $16.
      HOURS -- Lunch, Monday through Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner,
      3 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. seven days a week.
      CREDIT CARDS -- All major.
      RESERVATIONS -- Recommended for larger parties.
      WHEELCHAIR ACCESS -- The restaurant is on one level; restrooms are
      accessible.
      IF YOU GO -- The edge of Edison extends to U.S. Route 1 and is a bit
      north of New Brunswick. From U.S. Route 1, take Old Post Road
      immediately south of the Ford plant. The restaurant is on the right,
      in a strip mall behind the Pep Boys auto supply store.

      REVIEWED -- February 15, 2004

      RATINGS -- Poor, Fair, Satisfactory, Good, Very Good, Excellent,
      Extraordinary. Ratings reflect the reviewer's reaction to food,
      ambience and service, with price taken into consideration. Menu
      listings and prices are subject to change.

      Published: 02 - 15 - 2004 , Late Edition - Final , Section 14NJ ,
      Column 1 , Page 14
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