It’s probably not a surprise that when Lady A and I get together, we talk food. Or that our husbands are equally involved in these conversations. Talk turned to Korean food one night and the next we met up at Shinsegae, located on Patton (aka, Jordan farther to the north), just south of the 565 in a small shopping center.
It was a Monday night and the crowd was light so the owners, all warmth and solicitousness, sat at a nearby table watching Korean TV between checking in with us. There was a bit of a language barrier, but nothing that a little patience couldn’t overcome. I will forewarn you of one thing though, the only tea served is green tea. No iced tea (sweet or otherwise). [Edit: On a return trip, iced tea was available, I think it may have been a misunderstanding on this visit.]
We settled in to peruse the menu, guided by both the recommendations of Lady A and her husband and the clearly labeled color pictures ringing the room. Proteins included squid, octopus, fish, beef, pork, and tofu and the dishes danced around them, adding noodles or vegetables. This one served hot, that one cold. Some items on the menu were winter stews, not yet available. The Kalbi, a dish of slowly cooked beef ribs which requires a call a couple of days in advance is a casually held secret, not listed on the menu.
Our table nearly universally ordered the chapchae boulgogi, essentially a beef stir fry. Lady A, the only dissenter, went instead with bi bim bop, which she described as being similar to a Vietnamese clay pot.
After placing our orders, six small bowls were brought to our table, each containing a different dish.
From left to right, in the back row, we have potatoes, kimchi (fermented cabbage), and cumbers. Left to right, in the front row, soy beans, eggplant, and fish cakes. The potatoes were one of the most familiar dishes, served cool, with a mild flavor given zip by the pepper and a bit of crunch. The cucumbers were slightly more exotic, slightly sweet with bits of spicy. Due to my own texture issues with eggplant, I couldn’t quite summon the courage to test it, but I did note the onions mixed in with the dish.
Kimchi has quite the reputation so I was curious to see what the fuss was all about. I found it to taste mostly of a strong pickling brine and while I’m not in a hurry to eat a gallon of it, it was far from unpleasant. The fish cakes were light, with a compressed texture and a faint fishy taste. The soy beans were my favorite of the small dishes, crunchy and served in soy sauce, they were addictive (and excellent chopsticks practice).
The dishes were refilled as we emptied them, but they had hardly been topped off when our food began arriving and commanded the bulk of our attention.
The boulgogi featured tender, juicy beef, marinated in a soy based sauce with a hint of sweetness. The sauce permeated everything without dominating. The tender, thinly sliced zuchini, the clear rice noodles, the crunchy slices of sweet onions, the thin slices of carrots, all were brought forth by the flavor of the sauce. The sticky white rice was a simple compliment to the main dish.
The Lady A’s dish (shown at the top of the post) was beautifully presented, meat and veggies atop rice, crowned with a fried egg and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The dish was served with gochi (a hot pepper) paste with, apparently, quite a kick.
Growing up my family used to frequent a family owned Chinese restaurant where the kids would do their homework on the back tables and when it was slow, the staff would chat or watch TV. The atmosphere in Shinsegae reminded me of the homey feel of that restaurant. The bright orange walls are tempered with brown, reminiscent of the 70s, complete with potted plants. The food was delicious, the service friendly, and the prices reasonable. We will absolutely be back.
Total for the meal: $22.22 (Included two chapchae boulgogis and two drinks)
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