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Thursday, December 15,2011

Improved decor, and the taste to match

By Clay Fong

My friend Auden was visiting from the Western Slope, and it’s customary for us to visit an Asian eatery, since decent ones are mighty scarce in his neck of the woods. To be frank, things didn’t go so well the last go-around. Attempting to prove our foodie street cred to one another, we’d gone to a Vietnamese restaurant and ordered congealed blood cube soup. Each of us tried to be hospitable by insisting that the other polish off this delicacy, but ultimately, much of the bowl remained unfinished. This time, I decided to play it safe by suggesting a visit to Boulder’s Korea House, located on 28th Street and Glenwood Drive.

This restaurant has been around for many years, although one of the servers confirmed it’s been under new management since last spring. The most obvious change is the upgrades to the décor, which elevate the old Spartan ambience to a warmer, living-room type of atmosphere. What’s reasonably unchanged is the menu, which features a smattering of Japanese choices like sushi and teriyaki, as well as several Korean dishes, including $7.99 barbecue chicken, beef and dumpling lunch specials.

Auden confessed he wasn’t as familiar with Korean fare as he was with other cuisines. Consequently, we decided to splurge and ordered the set menu for two, priced at $42.99, including sake. We skipped the alcohol, since our respective employers  probably wouldn’t be too enthused about us spending the remainder of the day in a drunken stupor. We started with a green salad topped with a ginger sesame dressing and ripe avocado slices. This selection was a cut above most Asian restaurant salads, as the dressing was distinctively flavored without overwhelming the greens’ freshness.

Kimchi, the famed spicy cabbage pickle, made an appearance in a thick pancake, sliced into wedges like a pizza. This preparation resembled a cross between latkes and the turnip cakes found in dim sum restaurants. A hefty and satisfying choice, the cabbage contributed crunch and a hint of garlic flavor, although the dish could have been improved with more red pepper.

The same could be said of the tofu kimchi soup, which was a touch spicier than the pancake, but not as potent as other versions I’ve sampled. We also received a small side of kimchi, which, in its defense, was much crisper and fresher tasting than the preservative-laden stuff found in grocery stores.

More heat, and this pickle would have been perfect.

Gal bi, or marinated barbecued short ribs, is one of the most classic Korean dishes. Any minor quibbles with the rest of the meal were erased from our memories with these impossibly tender morsels. The balance of flavor was dead on, with a grilled beef savor playing off the right measure of soy, garlic and sweet marinade. The quality was just as good as you’ll find in any other Colorado restaurant, and I’d come back just for a lunch special of these ribs.

We ended with refreshing green tea ice cream encased in mochi, or rice cake, and topped with whipped cream and, oddly enough, parsley. Despite this quirk, our experience helped us to put the blood cube incident behind us.

While I’ll ask if they have a hotter kimchi next time, I felt that the overall quality of the food is better now than it had been in past incarnations.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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