I would be perfectly happy eating just a bowl of plain rice and kimchi at Korea Garden, but I wouldn’t want to miss out on all the wonderful dishes that make the restaurant one of the best Korean spots in town.
Diners looking to satisfy their appetite for traditional Korean food or those seeking an introduction to the cuisine should make their way to Ralston, where Korea Garden occupies a strip mall space just south of 72nd and Q streets.
With its extensive menu, casual atmosphere, and friendly service, the restaurant dishes out homestyle Korean favorites in a cozy, laid-back setting. The owners operated Asian Dragon House restaurant, just east of Westroads Mall, for a number of years before moving the business to Ralston in 2016 and changing the name to Korea Garden.
Among entrees, the sizzling rice bowl bibimbap and galbi—marinated and grilled short ribs—are hard to resist. Cut in thin slices across the bone, the beef short ribs are lightly charred with just enough sweetness to round out the salty-savory flavor. The ultimate Korean comfort food, bibimbap comes in a hot stone bowl that crisps the bottom layer of rice. Arranged atop the rice are tender beef and a colorful array of vegetables, complete with a sunny-side-up egg. Add a little, or a lot, of the spicy-sweet red chile sauce that comes on the side, mix it all up, and dig in.
Beef bulgogi is another signature Korean dish, and it turns up on the menu as an entree and a cook-it-yourself dinner for two. I prefer the latter option because it’s a fun, interactive experience. Using a small, portable grill, diners cook thinly-sliced, marinated beef tableside with onion, carrots, and scallion. It’s served with a plate of green leaf lettuce in which to wrap the meat.
The bulgogi, as well as other entrees, comes with banchan—an assortment of small side dishes that are an essential component of Korean meals. They add pops of flavor, texture, and color. There are no duds among Korea Garden’s banchan: crunchy strips of pickled radish and carrot, glazed potatoes, steamed broccoli florets, bite-size squares of scallion pancake, and two kinds of kimchi (napa cabbage and cucumber). It’s easy to polish off all six bowls.
A staple of Korean cuisine, kimchi is a fermented food that can be made with cabbage, cucumber, radish, and other veggies. Often spicy, sour, and garlicky, it’s the star of dishes such as kimchi fried rice and kimchi jjigae, a spicy stew. The restaurant’s kimchi jjigae doesn’t disappoint those who love a little heat. The hearty dish arrives bubbling in a hot stone bowl, brimming with cubes of silky tofu, sliced pork, and plenty of pungent kimchi in a fiery red broth. For something milder, a bowl of rice cake soup satisfies with its delicate beef broth, Korean dumplings, and slices of soft, chewy rice cakes.
The menu also includes several noodle dishes. Noodles in black bean sauce, or jajangmyeon, is a slightly salty-sweet dish with zucchini, onion, potato, pork, and a dark, rich sauce that clings to the thick white noodles. Even better is the japchae—pan-fried sweet potato glass noodles with carrot, mushrooms, onion, spinach, and beef.
Appetizers range from chicken wings and boiled dumplings to Korean-style sushi rolls—or kimbap—filled with egg, vegetables, imitation crab, and rice. The restaurant also offers soju, a popular Korean spirit, lunch specials, and even a convenient drive-through to grab Korean on the go.
Visit koreangardenomaha.com for more information.
This article was printed in the June 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.