Thursday, June 5, 2008

Young Dong Garden - restaurant review

Yeah, I know, everyone (including myself) makes jokes about the name of the restaurant. I think the nature of Vietnamese restaurants sometimes make them subject to that sort of English-translation-funny problem as well. But what counts is the food. And the food here is great. I think this is now my new favorite Korean restaurant.

The restaurant looks pretty small. When you walk in, there are two small rooms easily visible, but there is also another room in the back, though I didn't venture back there, so I don't know how much more room there was. The restaurant has a small adjacent parking lot, and there's street parking as well.

We waited for a couple minutes while they cleared a table, and then we were taken to our table and given menus. As we were perusing, they brought a complimentary onion pancake and a small salad for each of us. The onion pancake was good, though not as good as the flaky, layered onion pancakes I've had at Chinese restaurants that I love. The salad is pretty generic, and in the future, I'll probably just skip it because there's too much other good stuff.

One thing I had read about was that there's a button on the table that you can push to call for service. It's marked with a little sign, and when the waiter came by to take our order and we weren't ready, he asked us to push the button when we were. I would imagine some people might not be too keen on the idea, but I love having a call button. That way, you're not having to keep an eye out when you need someone's attention.

I decided on the bulgogi (marinated beef slices) and seafood tofu soup combo. During my reading up of the restaurant, a number of people had commented that their tofu soup wasn't nearly as spicy as at other Korean restaurants, so you should order one step up from normal, so I took their advice and ordered it spicy rather than medium. The five side dishes I got were cabbage kim chee, cucumber kim chee, seaweed, cold sesame sprouts and fish cake. The fish cakes were kind of boring, but I really enjoyed the seaweed.

When they brought the bubbling soup (which tends to splatter, so wearing light-colored clothes and sitting really close to the table is a decidedly *BAD* idea), I cracked the egg in it, and it nicely submerged under the broth and cooked thoroughly. There were times when the soup was a bit too spicy than what I like, but that was added to because the soup was still so hot, not to mention the kim chee I was nibbling on as well. When it got too spicy, I would take breaks and have some water or some of the other food, including the cold bean sprouts or seaweed. The soup was very tasty though, and the seafood consisted of clams and head-on shrimp.

The bulgogi came in a smaller serving platter than normal because it was part of a combo order, but it was piled rather high, so it was still a very generous serving. And it was YUMMY, with a similar barbeque sauce that they use for short ribs that I love. The bulgogi also came with a side of rice, but instead of being served in a regular bowl like in a Chinese restaurant or a metal bowl like I've had at other Korean restaurants, their rice was actually served in a little stone pot, which the rice would have also been cooked in, so the bottom of the rice was crusty. Mmmm, I love crusty rice (I know, that probably sounds gross, and I'm doing a horrible job of describing it, but it's very crunchy, which I like), and I haven't had that in forever. The rice was purplish, so I'm not sure where the color came from, and I didn't taste anything different in the rice. Here's an article where the writer had almost the same food, but at another restaurant, and he even mentions the purple rice and stone rice pot, and there's a picture as well. He mentions being taught to use tea to loosen the crusted rice, and we used to do that at home with soup broth, but this time, I was pretty much just digging all the rice from the sides and ignoring the regular rice in the middle of the bowl. I think the crusted rice is what put this restaurant over the other Korean ones I've been to.

The husband decided to order the japchae - glass noodles mixed with grilled beef and vegetable. From what he could tell, they used the same bulgogi as meat, so that added a lot of flavor to the dish. He thought it was very tasty, though there was too much sesame oil - it was completely pooling at the bottom of the plate.

Since we were seated almost directly in front of the reception desk, we were usually able to get someone's attention if we needed something, but they're also running around and busy so much that it can still be hard to get their attention as they're running past. We waited a bit for water refills before finally pushing the button, and shortly thereafter, one of the bussers came by with a little plastic container of water that he left on the table so we could help ourselves.

This restaurant was a little less casual than the last Korean restaurant I mentioned in that it looked more like a regular restaurant and there was a bit more attention from the waiters. They were very nice, and while we didn't need any assistance with the menu, I did hear one of the waitresses at the table behind me explaining things to them and recommending things for them to order based on their tastes.

There were a number of kids there, not surprising given the environment and location, but there is a caution printed on the menu about the dangers of children running around since they're often carrying pots of hot boiling soup and hot platters of entrees and such.

I had some of the bulgogi, but I ended up taking most of it home, and the husband had some noodles and vegetables left, so I mixed the two together (minus the pool of sesame oil) in the to-go box and had it for dinner another night - it was still tasty.

When they brought the bill, instead of candy that usually accompanies it in most restaurants, they instead had two sticks of melon gum, which the husband said was pretty good.

This is somewhere I'd definitely recommend and plan to return to.

They have a to-go menu that's smaller than the dine-in menu (which also has pictures, which I like), and while I guess it makes sense, I'm a bit surprised that the tofu soup is on the to-go menu. I'm not sure how they manage that, and it wouldn't be piping hot when it was finally eaten like it is at the restaurant itself.

Here's the Yelp listing for the restaurant, and here's a scan of the to-go menu.

Young Dong Garden
Korean Cuisine and Drinks
19 West Huntington Drive (just west of Santa Anita Avenue)
Arcadia, CA 91007
(626) 698-6198
Monday - Saturday 11am to 9:30pm
Sunday noon to 9pm


Sherry said...

I'm imagining all the trouble we could get into if we had a call button at a certain restaurant we love...

Cindy said...

Next time we see a certain server, we should suggest that they implement those call buttons! ;)

Stephen said...

My 3 friends and I go to this place last night. I order Bulgogi, which is one of the MOST common dishes, and they order their dishes. 30 minutes later when my friends all have recieved their dishes I was still waiting on mine, so I ask the waitress and she says "its almost done go sit down" So I go back, I see her then serve Bulgogi to another party, that came 20 minutes after we came in. I ask again she says "its almost ready so sorry go sit down". So I sit back down. when 1 hour had passed I started getting mad because so many bulgogi's had been served and yet mine had not yet come. I ask her about it and she says the SAME thing again with an attitude. So I get mad and cancel it. She just gives me a weird look and I went back mad. Also all this time they refused to give us our ordered drinks I mean how hard is it to just give 2 cokes... also they wouldn't refill our water. They give us the check and I pay it to the owner angrily and the waitress comes to me and starts arguing with me shouting "I said sorry why you still mad?" I get even more mad because she's shouting at me and giving me attitude. Then she starts cussing at me in korean, and so I say some cuss words that I knew in korean back at her. She then followed me back to my car cussing at me and telling me to go die. I tell her to F* off and leave me alone before I kick her butt, so she cussed at me while she left.

Think again about your review of this place. I'm so mad that I'm posting this story about how they treated me all over the net

Cindy said...

I'm going to leave this last comment up even though, after reading it, I highly suspect it's not true. The details just don't really jive for me, but ok, whatever.

However, I just have to say that I'm really tired of people telling me that because they had a different experience than me at a particular restaurant, that I must therefore be wrong and shouldn't post about my experiences anymore. Whatever happens to anyone else has no bearing on my particular experience, in the same way that because I had a particular experience, that doesn't mean someone else is going to have the exact same experience.

If I have a bad experience at a place, I will definitely say so. And if someone else has a great experience there, that doesn't make either of us wrong.