Korean food is a fascinating mix of foods! I found this out as never before when I went to the Nam Kang Korean Restaurant on Maryland Ave. last night. Amazingly, it's open from 11 AM all the way through to 4 AM (you read that right, 4 in the morning)!
I went here Saturday night for food that the City Paper swears tastes like home-cookin'. It seemed rather laid-back, with stairs leading down to the restaurant. The restaurant looks very homey, and only had a few people when I came in (about 8 PM). The waitress immediately came to seat me, and handed me a menu.
Nam Kang offers more than just Korean cuisine. It also has several Japanese menu items (including several types of sushi) and a few Chinese items, too. But easily half the menu was dedicated to Korean cuisine. Surprising me was the notable lack of kim chi, which is eaten at every Korean meal. It then dawned on me that, maybe, the kim chi was brought out automatically (and therefore on-the-house). That was indeed the case.
I perused the drink menu. Lots of wines, but only plum and white are available by the glass. If I came with somebody else, I might be tempted to fork over $30 for a bottle of ginseng wine (Interesting!). But tonight, I'd rather not get arrested for DUI. Double for the soju, Korea's famous liquor (I've heard it tastes like a slightly sweet vodka). One bottle - and it only comes by the bottle - costs $12.95, and is equal to 7 shots. So again, no DUI for me tonight, so I passed. I ended up getting a glass of plum wine, which was tangier than that which I got at Minato. But it was still sweet. AND a little stronger than I had expected. I also ordered a fairly weak green tea, and got some water.
Before my main dish - the hae mool dol bop - came seven small bowls of kim chi, including one of the pickled cabbage that most Americans identify as kim chi (if we can identify it at all), and it tasted as good as any I have had.
The six other bowls reminded me that kim chi is more than just pickled cabbage. It's also:
- firm tofu slices, which were in a mild, slightly sweet chili sauce (yummy)
- cubed rice cakes with chili and scallions on top, in a less mild sauce (also yummy)
- a relatively sweet, firm but still creamy lump of mashed potatoes with what I think were two pieces of some unidentifiable vegetable inside (not just surprising that I was eating mashed potatoes at a Korean restaurant, without even asking for them, both strange and tasty)
- green beans, slightly marinated (not so exciting, but okay, yum)
- slightly pickled bean sprouts (didn't do so much for me, so no yum)
- dried baby anchovies, with a dried jalapeño flake, in very little sauce (I'll discuss that at the end of this post)
The price was not as much as I often pay for dinner these days. Cost of the green tea, glass of plum wine and the hae mool dol bop was about $20 before tip. And that didn't include the complimentary small glass of sweet rice drink, which is a little too sweet for me.
But one final word about Nam Kang: I woke up with a stomachache this morning, and not the kind you get from overeating. Mind you, my system is more sensitive than most, what with the Crohn's and all. Almost 12 hours after I awoke, it is still there. I've been cursing the place ever since, but I doubt it as everything. I think it was probably the dried baby anchovies, but it could've been anything seafood-related (as hot as it was, heat doesn't always affect me that way, but it could be that, too). Whatever. Next time (yes, there will be a next time) I'll just get the beef, maybe the bulgogi (beef barbecue). And I will avoid the dried baby anchovies.