Pass on the Strip Club, Pass on Chili’s and Pick Koreana for Lunch
Today, Nick from My Inner Fatty is a giving us another report on Korean food in University City. Click ahead, his gorgeous food porn photos make me feel like I am eating with him!
After last week’s visit to KOJA, more than a few people have suggested that I pay Koreana a visit, and for good reason, their food is absolutely fantastic. Inside the restaurant it’s a bit cramped, a bit beat up, and certainly not the fanciest of interior design jobs, but I feel like it adds an element of charm, like an ode to being more about food than appearances. Basically it’s an oasis of cheap Korean food in an area otherwise inundated with sandwich and Chinese trucks.
On the surface, you’d probably think that there’s absolutely no reason why anyone would randomly take a right turn into a parking lot behind Chili’s (unless of course you were planning to visit the gentleman’s club located next door, in which case you might be reading the wrong blog). If you dig a little deeper though, you’ll find that there’s a steady flux of people who filter over to this undeniably shady spot everyday at noon and after work, but why? Because located behind that poorly situated Chili’s is one of, if not the most legitimate Korean restaurants in the vicinity of University City.
The menu is pretty extensive, and covers most of what I expect from Korean restaurants. Every single dish is under $10, so there’s no limit to the ML rule. Like I said, value driven should be the primary point to take from here. So what was good? You really can’t go wrong with dol sot bibimbap, which translates to ‘stone pot mixed rice.’ At $9.75, it’s the most expensive thing on their menu, and yes, it’s dine-in only (for obvious logistical reasons), but honestly it was worth it. If you’re not familiar with what what this dish comprises, basically an uber hot stone pot is filled with rice, a fried egg, an assortment of vegetables (bean sprouts, spinach, carrots, tofu, etc.), and thinly sliced marinated beef. It comes to your table crisping the rice at the base of the bowl, where you’re supposed to blend in a gochujang paste and mix everything up in a giant red mess of spicy flavors. Essentially, you go from the above to this:
The traditional flavors were all there. The meat was tender, juicy, and flavorful, with the vegetables being well prepared, none overpowering any of the others in terms of presence. Considering the size of the bowl and the reasonable cost, I can’t imagine anyone having any complaints. If you like your bibimbap spicy enough to make you cry though, you might be ever so slightly disappointed. Even after dumping the entire vat of gochujang into the mixture, there was more sweet than heat present. I guess that appeals to the masses, and it’s not a deal breaker in any sense of the word.
Also tried the jap chae bap, which is glass noodles w/rice. If you’re a fan of oily noodles, which I am, you’ll love these. Delightfully smooth, this dish possesses the magnificent flavor of vegetable and beef stir fried in sesame oil. The taste was terrific, and while some of the noodles did end up sticking together in spite of the oil content, you have to consider the fact that for $7.25, you get a massive heap of starch noodles and an equally filling pile of rice. In summary? Just like the bibimbap, for the cost, and for the amount of food you get, it works out pretty well if Korean food is what you’re after.
THE + (What somebody who likes this place would say)
- The amount of food you get is pretty substantial
- About as authentic as you’ll find on this side of the Schuylkill
- Menu is pretty extensive, so there should be something for everyone
THE – (What somebody who doesn’t like this place would say)
- I’m not sure I want to eat at a small dingy restaurant
- But wait… isn’t KOJA just down the street? Isn’t it cheaper?
- I thought Korean food was spicy?
Koreana, 3801 Chestnut St (@ 38th St), 215 222 2240