By NICK CAITO, Special to The Courant
The Hartford Courant
October 17, 2013
The Northeast isn't exactly a hotbed for Korean food: It's downright difficult to find the cuisine in Connecticut. Goong is one of a handful in the state where you can get your fix.
THE VIBE: But blink and you could drive past. Goong sits in a desolate plaza on Silver Lane that houses vacant department stores, a boxing gym, Korean grocer, Korean dentist, and a Mexican fried chicken joint. The interior is quite nice without being overly elegant. Light colored woods and rice paper dividers fill the decor, as in many Asian restaurants.
THE FOOD:Korean food can be an acquired taste. There's a lot of garlic, a lot of sesame, and some fragrant combinations that could catch an unprepared palate off guard.
Pungent pickled cabbage kimchi is indicative of this, though not everything needs to be as spicy or intense. The Tang Su Yook (sweet and sour pork, $11.99 lunch, $15.99 dinner) is a good example: lightly breaded pork chunks sit in a sweet sauce with vegetables.
Bibim-Bab ($9.99 lunch, $11.99 dinner) is a go-to dish for Korean food. A large bowl of rice is topped with a variety of vegetables (carrots, sprouts, seaweed, or something seasonal) along with strips of beef, and then topped with a fried egg. Split open the yolk and add a healthy squirt of gochujang. This chili paste, sometimes called "Korean Ketchup" (and ironically served here in a red ketchup bottle), is somewhat sweet with a heat that builds.
For a variation, try the Dol Soht Bibim-Bab ($10.99 lunch, $13.99 dinner). This version is served in a blazing hot stone bowl. Here the egg can be further cooked up against the side while a layer of rice caramelizes from the heat. Warning: no touching. The bowl is very hot.
Lunch meals are served with an array of small side dishes. These vary, but can include bean sprouts in sesame oil, spicy carrots, seaweed salad, and kimchi.
THE BILL: Lunch specials are where it's at when it comes to price: $9.99 or $10.99 gets a meal almost guaranteed for leftovers. Most of the dinner options are only a dollar or two more, though some can range into the $20s or even $30s.
THE VERDICT: Goong dishes out a solid representation of Korean cuisine. Don't let the bleak plaza dissuade you. Instead, head next door to the grocer after eating and pick up some kimchi for home consumption.
THE PARTICULARS: Goong is open daily from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m., but closed on Tuesdays. The restaurant prefers tips in cash, but accepts credit cards. Catering and delivery are available.
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