Review of a New Jersey Korean restaurant in NY Times
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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