Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Memories: Korean Restaurant

I have decided to a series of posts over the year about restaurants that I have loved and lost. The first will be the Korean Restaurant, Ararang, I think it was called, on Mayfield Road. My love for Korean food began when I lived in Chicago. There was a restaurant called, Korean Restaurant, yes, that was the name. It was open very late, perhaps all night. The spicy meat paired with warm white rice, the shear excess of the portions, and the inexplicable side dishes were all revelations.

After we started dating, I brought my husband over to the love of the Korean restaurant. Korean food is meat and potatoes Asian according to him. This Lyndhurst Korean restaurant, whatever its name had been, was enormous; it is now a Turkish restaurant, Anatlya Red Square. We often went in on the weekdays, and we would be the only people in the restaurant.

I can’t quite remember when I started eating at this restaurant, though I do remember patronizing the restaurant brought serious consternation to my father, a usually calm man who actually threw a small fit every time I suggested Korean food. I never understood his aversion—meat and rice are 2/3 of his favorite food groups (coffee is the third.) But, early in my experience with this restaurant I settled on my favorites, anything grilled, jap chae (stir-fried glassy noodles), and bi bim bop (fried rice-ish).

Then, my husband joined the family and started to rock the boat. With him, we branched out. There was one evening when we went with an excellent ex-vegetarian friend and a tall man. I ordered a jap chae for all and bi bim bop for me. The other three decided to test the veracity of the menu. The waitress returned with what the management promised: pork chops and tofu, a plate of many pork chops and many slabs of tofu, crab soup with the legs poking out of the bowl, and fish soup, heads and all. All the dishes were spicy and excellent, but completely unexplained by the wait-staff. All we really understood was when you read “chunks of fish” on a menu, you will receive just that.

The restaurant was undone by the lack of front of house skills—when the server leaves everything unsaid (a sort of lie of omission), foreign food always seemed more foreign. And, of course, as time went on, with so many struggling restaurants, the food started to wane in quality.

I decided to write this memory entry first as a beam into space, in hopes that someone would open another Korean restaurant on the east side—a small restaurant where the rent is actually doable and with staff that is capable of answering questions and explaining the cuisine.

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