In search of a new and different food experience, we tried out Korea Garden, a Korean/Japanese combo restaurant in the Philadelphia suburb of Blue Bell, PA. Our party of 8 included 4 adults and 4 teens. We had never tried Korean barbecue before, but knew that it involved cooking meat on a grill in your table. This sounded like fun, and it turned out to be an enjoyable and tasty experience, despite some issues with service.
We started with appetizers of Haemul Pajeon (seafood and scallion pancake, $12.95) and Mandoo Kui (pan fried dumplings, 11 for $9.95). The pancake was very tasty, and was cut into portions so we could share it all the way around. The plate of dumplings, similar to Chinese dumplings, disappeared in seconds. Some people also ordered sushi, which was only so-so.
Next we ordered several items on the barbecue menu based on our server's recommendations, including Bulgo Kui (marinated sliced rib eye, $17.95), which was probably the best of the selections. We also ordered Seafood Kui, at $22.95, which came with a selection of shrimp, lobster tail, mussels, and squid. Each portion of barbecue serves 2 people.
Here comes the fun part. The server lit the circular gas grill inset into our table, and cooked the food on the grill for us. Note, this is not like a hibachi experience, there are no theatrics, but it is nice to see and smell the food cooking in front of you. Our server demonstrated how to eat the meat by placing it on a half piece of lettuce, adding some soy bean paste, garlic and sliced radish, and wrapping it into a bundle. Small tasty vegetable side dishes (banchan) come with the meal, including Kim Chi, the fiery cabbage dish that is typically Korean. Fortunately, pitchers of water on our table were handy to quench the heat! All in all, we really enjoyed this food and would return again to repeat the barbecue experience, and try some other items we missed out on like Bibimbap (?) which looked interesting.
Some negatives here: the service in this restaurant is kind of slow and the staff do not speak English well. Our experience did not start well as we were seated and then ignored for ten minutes. We finally got the attention of our server who took our drink order, but got everything mixed up bring a Kirin instead of a Heineken, and a Coors instead of a Corona. On the plus side, our server was helpful in explaining (in somewhat broken English) the various types of Korean food on the menu and gave us helpful recommendations
Prices are moderate, and wine and beer (including Korean and Japanese brands) are available.
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