Written by Amber Smith & Jennifer Gleason
Locally owned and operated Korea Garden offers a fresh, authentic taste.
Amber: Ethnic cuisine aficionados will love the menu at Korea Garden, a locally owned and operated restaurant on St. Augustine Road offering traditional Korean dishes as well as Korean barbeque. The building’s exterior hasn’t really changed since it belonged to a Huddle House, but upon walking in the restaurant has a completely different feel. While you pick up on the sense that the place was once a diner, it now feels more like you are in the owner’s dining room.
Jennifer: You could smell spicy-pickled cabbage or kimchi, strong when you walk into the place, but that isn’t a bad thing. The menu has vast choices from grilled entrees, classic appetizers to box lunches and dinners.
A: One thing to note about Korean food is it is a little different than other types of Asian food. On its Facebook page, the restaurant has a post responding to someone asking if Korean food is as good as Chinese or Japanese food. “Korean food is more similar to Japanese food than Chinese food,” it reads. “It tends to be spicier than Japanese food, and a little more home-style (a bit ‘rougher around the edges,’ perhaps a bit less refined, but in a GOOD way!). The Koreans LOVE their red meat, much more so than Japanese, although they are also equally gaga over fresh seafood.”
J: We ordered some green tea with our meals, and they were served to us in cute small cups and the pitcher was left on our table so we could refill at our leisure. We ordered the egg roll as an appetizer, which was delicious, and were served soup with various vegetables such as cabbage, cucumbers, bean sprouts and onions that could be added to the soups. I ordered the “glazed chicken” box dinner which consisted of almost too much food to handle—but that’s why I enjoy the boxes at Asian restaurants, when offered. There’s more food for your money. This particular box had tons of grilled glazed chicken, a small cup of soy sauce in the middle, three pieces of sushi, a large mound of steamed white rice, a side salad, an egg roll, a pot sticker and three pieces of deep-fried vegetables. All of the food was great, but the compartment in my box with the deep-fried vegetables, egg roll and pot sticker was too much fried food for me to stomach. It was all tasty, but a bit overbearing.
A: I ordered kimchi jjigae, a traditional Korean kimchi soup. Traditional kimchi jjigae can be made with seafood or pork along with kimchi and other vegetables. The recipe used at Korea Garden is a secret, according to Linda Elliott, one of the restaurants owners. The most she was able to disclose is that her restaurant’s version is made with beef and pork. The soup is very spicy, which was amplified by the fact that it comes to your table in a stone pot, still boiling from the heat of the stove. Elliott’s family is from Korea and their passion for their heritage is apparent in the quality of their food. The servers, cooks and owners at Korea Garden make an effort to make sure that their customers are very comfortable while they are at the restaurant. I really enjoyed the intimate, homey feel of restaurant. I also enjoyed the fact that the restaurant’s owner makes time to come out and ensure that customers are comfortable. The authenticity and home-cooked feel of the recipes is the best part for me. I recommend this restaurant for people who like Asian cuisine, but also to those who love spicy foods. It is necessary to note that many dishes are made with pork and seafood, so if you are allergic to these items you need to look at the menu carefully before ordering. If spicy foods are not pleasing to your palate, you also need to choose carefully.
J: Overall, my experience at Korea Garden was satisfactory, and I would come back again. Especially for another box dinner or lunch. But I might skip on eating the fried foods, or at least get a to-go box for them.