Monthly Archives: February 2012

Mini Korean Food Tour

Nam Gang

1411 Gessner Dr, Ste A
Houston, TX 77080
(713) 467-8801

Rating: h8

Soju Bang

10049 Long Point Rd

Houston, Tx 77055

713-722-0578

Rating: 8

I got to live out my Korean soap opera fantasies on our last date night. Aaron and I wanted an exotic food staycation, and we decided this mini Korean food tour would be just the thing. We got a late start so didn’t make it to Han Mi Jung, but we did make it to both Nam Gang and Soju Bang.

Nam Gang

He ate: My overall comment about this place is that it’s really expensive. They cook the food here for you, and if you don’t like that it might be annoying, but I suppose you can just tell them to go away. Our bill was $80 and we only ordered half of what we usually would have ordered since we knew we were going to another restaurant afterwards.

She ate: I was really excited about Nam Gang for two reasons: 1. table top bbq with coal. I haven’t found this at any Korean restaurants on Bellaire, and 2. the egg banchan (similar to Japanese chwanmushi, or a steamed egg) that comes free along with the many small appetizer dishes. As you can see below, the coal excitement was fulfilled, but the egg banchan never came. When I asked for it the waitress kind of rolled her eyes and said “ok, well, I can make it for you…if you want.”

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He ate: I liked the sauces that came with the sauces that came with food, the thicker bean paste sauce, and then the sesame sauce with the salt on the bottom. I liked the appetizer plates here more than I usually do. They didn’t have the whole fried fish like they do at Tofu Village, but I’m not a big fan of that so it was fine with me. I really liked the kimchi (I usually don’t) because it was a little sweeter than what you usually get. I also liked the plum seaweed. I thought the sides were better than average but not that much.

She ate: The small dishes were more substantial and interesting than the small dishes offered at Korean restaurants on Bellaire. They had egg battered tofu and marinaded eggplant, two varieties I haven’t yet seen. Other than that, there was nothing special about their small dishes or entrees.

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He ate: I liked the marinaded short ribs a lot, but I like this dish wherever we get it. It tends to taste very similar wherever we go.

She ate: I agree. Short ribs are going to be good even when covered in poo. Ok maybe not poo but come on. It’s a cheap, fatty cut of meat. You can’t really go wrong here.

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He ate: I thought the oyster pancake was just ok. It was luke warm and wasn’t very good. It had a nice amount of oyster in it, but overall the pancake was not well-formed and kept falling apart.

She ate: The pancake wasn’t crispy at all, but the oysters were plentiful and fresh. It also made for a yummy cold leftover treat the next day.

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He ate: When we ordered the lamb, they tried really hard to dissuade us. I don’t understand why lamb is such an exotic thing. They kept saying it smells, and then when they cooked it for us. The meat was a little thin and overcooked, but I guess that’s what happens when someone else is cooking for you—they tend to not care as much/they don’t know how you like it. I tend to like my meats a little undercooked rather than overcooked.

She ate: Yeah, I have no fucking clue what that whole thing was about. I find it highly annoying when we go to Asian restaurants and the waiters/waitresses look to me and asks “are you sure HE will eat that?!” *eyes Aaron as if they were all of a sudden invisible to him.* The fuck. This time at least Aaron was not singled out. It was just totally random. “Are you sure you want the lamb? It smells!” Sure, lamb has a distinctive aroma, but does it matter when we’re in a restaurant full of people grilling AT THEIR TABLE? For real. Finally they let us order the lamb, but they kept making comments about how it smells the whole time they were cooking it, and they even said “smells like oysters!” (ummmm probably from the oyster sitting next to the grill but whatever).

Overall we probably won’t go back. It wasn’t bad by any means, it just wasn’t that good and was way too expensive.

Soju Bang:

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He ate: This was some of the most interesting food I’ve had in a long time. It was very, very different from food I’ve had in a long time. And coming from eating in Houston, where you can find really any ethnicity food you want, and done well at that, this is saying a lot. It was not really my taste palate—everything was super spicy. The soju was like weak everclear. I know we just got the very basic standard soju, and there are much better ones out there, but I would not recommend that to anyone. I also got the Hite beer, which I assume is the bud light of Korea. This was basically water, and so I would also not recommend this to anyone.

She ate: Ok, the soju was indeed like everclear…but I kind of think that’s the beauty of soju. It’s an every man drink, and it’s fun to cringe after each sip—and it makes the fried shit you’re about to eat taste all the better in contrast! I really dug the atmosphere of the bar/restaurant. It was a Korean dive bar—something Houston lacks. Houston lacks authentic Asian bars of any kind, which makes me kind of sad. There was a wedding after party happening when we were there, which was pretty awesome.

Kim Ma Ri:

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He ate: These were so interesting. I don’t even know what to compare these to. I don’t think I can even form an opinion on these since they’re nothing like anything I’ve ever tasted before.

She ate: I was informed that these are a very typical street food called Kim Ma Ri. They were most excellent. Chewy, starchy noodles, wrapped in seaweed, battered, and deep-fried. We didn’t we think of this earlier?? They didn’t seem all that spicy to me, but then again, I have a manlier tolerance level of spice than Aaron. Just sayin’.

Teteokbokki:

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He ate: This was too spicy for me, but I really liked the texture of the rice cakes. I would pick one out, eat it, and decide it’s too spicy. Then I’d pick another one out to eat, just to make sure, and to experience the texture again! They were addictive. The dumplings were a bit disappointing, but it was nice to have a crunchy texture to contrast with everything else.

She ate: Ok, I admit this dish was pretty spicy even for me. I pretty much would eat a bite, shout “OH! Spicy!” take a glug of soju, make a cringy face at the everclear-ness of the liquor, and eat another bite of the spicy red noodles to erase the soju taste, then the vicious cycle would start all over again. No, but seriously, I really liked this dish. The sauce was spicy but also very sweet. The noodles were perfectly al dente but squishy at the same time. There were also these fat, doughy rice cake logs that just soaked up the sauce. In contrast, there were the deep-fried crispy dumplings, which actually were not all that great but the dish really needed the crispness.

Ja Jeung Mein:

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He ate: Even though these noodles were super black (they looked like they were cooked in squid ink! Which would have actually tasted much better. Too bad.) they didn’t have much of a black bean flavor. I really liked these noodles. The texture was great and it had a really pleasant aroma.

She ate: I thought these noodles were pretty sad. They used a different noodle than the red spicy one above, so it wasn’t as chewy or al dente. It wasn’t overcooked, just a very boring texture. The bean sauce didn’t taste like beans because it was overpowered by the humongous BED OF ONIONS THAT WILL TAKE OVER THE WORLD. I’m not well versed in Korean food, so maybe this is typical of Korean ja jeung mein (although I’ve had it in other Korean restaurants and never with onions). This dish was not bad, very edible, but not my cup of tea. My ja jeung mein loyalty still remains with Dumpling King, the one on Bellaire, NOT Westheimer!

We would go back to Soju Bang to try some of their other dishes. Even though it’s far from us, they offer dishes not typically found in other Korean restaurants.

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