I have a quarterly tradition: my friend Andres and I get up and out to campus a week or so before class starts. We meander around the local bookstores, usually College Town, and check out book prices, compare them against the ones we found on Amazon or half.com and then call it a day. This usually takes about 20 minutes.
What it really becomes is an opportunity to catch up, kvetch about the classes we have coming up and how they’re going to be hell (the classes are always hell no matter how excited we are) and then take a walk around Urban Outfitters and have lunch.
We do lunch on campus every so often at Joys Village, but for this book browsing, clothing shopping, bonding day, we choose Japanese Oriental. It’s on High Street, just a block above Cazuela’s in an old white house.
I don’t know what it is about Korean food, but it is expensive! If you ask Chuck Smith, my BMHR854 seminars in HR policy professor (it’s an applied Econ class) why that is, he’ll probably go into a rant about supply and demand and neo-classical economists. And that’s probably true. Korean food doesn’t have the flash and prestige of Japanese restaurants, with high-priced exotic rolls (that no real Japanese person would even acknowledge) or the showmanship that comes included in your exuberant price for dinner at a Japanese teppanyaki (steakhouse) restaurant. Yes, teppanyaki is authentic, but the Japanese don’t smother their dishes in yum yum sauce (Genji’s) or egg yolk sauce (House of Japan on Polaris Parkway). And so Korean food goes unnoticed and these restaurateurs need to make a living by boosting their profit margins.
So I dine smart. I go when there are lunch specials. I mentioned Restaurant Silla before in the Northwest Shopping Centre and their fantastic weekend lunch specials. Perfect place for an Asian-inspired brunch that can cure any ails you might have contracted the night before. Read that how you may.
In case you don’t feel like trekking to the ‘burbs for a good meal on the weekends, walk over to Japanese Oriental. They have FANTASTIC lunch specials. My absolute favorite, pictured below, are their bento boxes. Bento boxes are traditional Japanese combinations that are usually offered for lunch or breakfast. In Japan, you can request a Western-style or Japanese-style bento. The Western-style still tends to have a very heavy Asian influence that while appeals to the Western palate, it at the same time expands it a little.
Japanese Oriental offers two (three are listed on the lunch menu, but the vegetarian bento was discontinued due to lack of interest) that consist of either a traditional bento or a tempura bento. The difference is five pieces of yummy battered and fried goodness (two pieces of shrimp, three vegetables) and an extra $2.00. It is very worth it. Served in your bento box are usually a nice-sized serving of beef bulgogi (a smoky-sweet Korean barbecue offering), four pieces of California roll, a serving of sushi rice molded into a sakura blossom with masago (flying fish roe) on top, a piece of deep-fried sushi, a fried gyoza and spring roll with a sweet chili sauce, two mussels on the shell in a spicy-sweet-creamy sauce, wasabi and an assortment of seasonal banchan (traditional, small cold Korean dishes that vary with the chef’s mood) and a bowl of miso soup.
You can see now why I usually only go once a quarter. It is a lot of food! But it is delicious and I often times find myself craving it a few more times per quarter. The price is hard to beat, the service is phenomenal and your food will be at your table within 10 minutes of ordering it. Can’t complain about that, can you? The lunch special menu, available until 2:30 on weekdays, also offers a variety of very reasonably-priced Korean staples that come in huge portions.
I highly recommend the boricha as an accompaniment, a barley tea that the Chinese call mai cha. It is earthy, satisfying and caffeine-free. It is customary to drink tea with Asian meals because of its health properties. It has been shown that drinking cold water with a meal congeals the fats in the food you are eating, which then line the inside of your stomach, taking it longer to digest and becoming more easy to absorb. Drinking warm tea prevents this. There’s also a philosophy about cold and hot energies in your food, but that is an entirely different blog post.
And with any Asian restaurant, a sign of its legitimacy is how many Asians are there when you dine. It’s crowded with Asians (me included), legit, and should definitely be one of your next culinary visits.