With the winter Olympics going on in Pyeongchang it really isn’t that surprising that I had a hankering for Korean. Doing a bit of internet research to find a place other than the two I already know, I found Bulgogi Box in Charlotte that looked promising.
I found the restaurant and then a couple of blocks later a parking spot. The restaurant has a wide front but the dining area isn’t very deep at all and the kitchen looks to be twice the size of the area with tables. I was greeted by a couple of the staff behind the bar and they invited me to sit wherever I liked so I grabbed a spot at the end of the bar. One of the ladies who greeted me asked if I’d been there before and when I said I hadn’t she welcomed me again and said she hoped I’d love the food. That made two of us.
The menu isn’t extensive but varied enough to offer something for most tastes. The didn’t have any Korean beers on tap so I ordered a Dragon’s Milk from New Holland Brewing to give me something to sip as I mulled my options.
Well that turned out to be a good choice. It was obviously a stout and the first sip was a surprise. It had a very smooth vanilla flavor and another strong taste it took me a minute to figure out and another moment to confirm it was a bourbon barrel aged stout. The bourbon taste was quite distinct and not bad along with the vanilla taste. Good start to the meal.
I was torn between the bulgogi box namesake of the restaurant or the bimbim bowl. The waiter was helpful to let me know the bulgogi had more meat and was a bit simpler where the bimbim bowl had a bit less meat but vegetables. I decided the vegetables wouldn’t kill me and I could get the bimbim in a sizzling pot.
I got the spicy pork version of the bowl and since it was the weekend it came with a choice of side and I selected pickles. This was maybe the best meal I had all week.
The bimbim was presented in a very hot bowl that had rice in the center topped with the spicy pork and an egg. Surrounding the rice and meat were sliced cucumbers, collards, shredded collards, radishes, corn, onions and mushrooms. The pork was spicy but not too bad, just enough to cause a tingle across my scalp and a bit of light sweat on the brow. The sizzling pot cooked the rice right at the bottom to a little crunch which added even more to the overall texture and taste. When I ordered the pickles I expected to get a mixed vegetable pickle mix but instead it was all cucumbers, thinly sliced and a bit sweet in vinegar. Judging by the slices and ones in the bowl these were pickled in house and complemented the spicy pork quite well.
That was a ton of food and I managed to finish it off but not without working at it. It was a great meal for a rainy mild winter day. I’ll definitely be going back to try the bulgogi box.
Last blog was Super Bowl themed and this one is Super G. There is a Korean restaurant in the Super G Mart food court along with a couple of others so it’s a repeat weekend. It would be impossible not to compare Super G with the previous Korean experience at Pepero. Both meals were at restaurants in a market but the difference was huge. Where Pepero feels like a family owned local place with a great authentic restaurant attached, the Super G Mart is like a prototype for an International supermarket chain that added a semi-fast food Korean eatery in the corner. Both are great for what they are but this is about the Super G so on to the food.
As you can see in the picture they have a pictographic menu plus some items packaged at the register and some dishes in the case under the menu. I decided to try the bibimbap this time, although I was almost tempted to go with the bulgogi since I enjoyed it so much at Pepero but stayed the course and tried the new dish.
The Jethro sized bowl had mixed vegetables and some marinated beef resting on a foundation of white rice and topped with a lightly fried egg. Included was a side of kimchi and some extra heat if you wanted to spice it up. I really enjoyed the mix of vegetables with the rice and egg and the marinated meat was fantastic. The kimchi was not very spicy but there was enough of the side heat to ratchet it up to whatever level you wanted. I kept it pretty mild and enjoyed the whole meal. I saw a few dishes other people had ordered and they all looked pretty good too. I’d definitely eat here again, after trying the other two places of course.
After enjoying the meal I decided to wander the aisles and see what they had and I was definitely impressed. The produce section has more variety than I’ve ever seen anywhere and it is arranged very logically. From there I strolled into the meat department and just past the beef lips and bull fries I came upon these.
That means somewhere out there is a recipe that calls for beef knee-caps. After this I just wandered up and down the aisles checking out the familiar international treats but things I’ve never heard of before. I did wind up buying a couple of packs of cookies, some Korean rice cakes (not the crunchy snack kind), and some fish sausage, just because. Each came from a different country; India, Oman, Korea & Japan. Another thing that set this apart from a general trip to the market was the people. I wouldn’t even begin to guess the number of different nationalities were represented by the crowd but to say it was diverse would be an understatement. It won’t be my last visit to the Super G and if you have need of some odd ingredient, sauce, meat, spice, check them out.
After a bit of searching for Korean restaurants Pepero in Matthews, NC was the place I settled on for this weeks passport stamp. It’s not much to look at. When you walk in, to the right is the restaurant area and to the left is a Korean market. The fact there was a market was one of the deciding factors in picking Pepero. There are two seating areas side by side, one apparently the original and the other a more recent addition to accommodate more folks. I was seated in the older section which just reinforced the “it ain’t fancy” vibe but it was very clean and my table had recently been bused and you could smell the cleaner. Points for that.
There were only a few people there when I arrived but it quickly filled up and honestly I was heartened to see and hear the majority were Korean. If they were choosing to eat here I figured that was a good sign the food was authentic. There were some interesting choices on the menu but I settled on the Seafood Pancake from the appetizer section and the “Bul go gi dup bop”, Korean BBQ beef and rice. As you can see from the shot below it came with several sides.
I’m not sure what all was in the seafood pancake but I did detect shrimp and squid. It was good and the pancake texture reminded me of a potato pancake. The beef was thinly sliced and chopped and was marinated in a slightly sweet sauce and had green onions and sesame seeds sprinkled on it and the rice was chopstick friendly sticky rice. The sides were kimchi, some kind of greens, pickled cucumber with some mild spicy sauce, bean sprouts and what I think was tofu, at least it had that consistency. The vagaries of restaurant in a market lighting didn’t do the food justice in these pictures. Up close and personal it was quite appetizing. Oh there was soup at the beginning also. This was a lot of food and against my normal nature I brought food home. One reason I had to leave a little room was I knew this was available just outside in the market and I had to try it.
If you can’t read the package it is an ice cream sandwich in the shape of a fish with vanilla ice cream and red bean paste. The “cookie” was the same material they use to make the cheap ice cream cones you get in the store. Normally I hate those things (waffle cones rule!) but in this case it was great, easy to hold, no leakage and did I mention shaped like a fish. Who wouldn’t want to try that? For those going “red bean paste, are you serious?” it was tasty but never fear they did have versions with strawberry and chocolate.
I had to stop in the market and just wander around looking at all the things I had no idea what the hell they were. I did see Korean Spam which made me smile and more varieties of seaweed than I thought possible. I did buy a couple of other things I’m going to try later. Some because they shared the name with the restaurant and they had chocolate. The other was because it is a sweet potato cookie, how could I not.
Overall verdict is this place is worth going back to visit. If you want good Korean and plenty of it I’d recommend it. They don’t have a web site but you can Google them. Pepero in Matthews, NC.
Next week it’s a road trip to Columbia for Lebanese at Arabesque with friends.
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