Picking a Book by Its' Cover
After visiting Houston's Asiatown for Chinese New Year, I was reminded that many other Asian cultures celebrate the Lunar New Year. I decided to pick another country represented in this colorful area on Bellaire Boulevard.
So how did I pick Arirang when there are hundreds of Asian restaurants in the area? I thought the facade was pretty entertaining. I have been known to pick a book by its cover, so why not do that with a restaurant? It was equally appealing inside!
I've gotten away from rating my food adventures...but this place is begging me to start up again. 1 bonus point for festive exterior!
Good people encounter despite language barrier
Ping, was a little shy about posing for the photo, but she was enthused and animated when helping us figure out the menu. She is part Korean and said "Kim Chi" was her favorite. I took her advice. She and one other server rushed around the restaurant in their blue and red aprons pushing carts holding steaming dishes. They were gracious and efficient...kind of reminded me of flight attendants...back in the day! 3 bonus points for Ping's great name and smile!
Like a Stage Set!
I must say, I was impressed with how they used the space. The open warehouse was broken into cozy areas with roofs and walls, decorated with Asian detail. A watermill sits in the center of the floor and Asian artwork is spotlighted up near the ceiling. I had the feeling we were in a studio where they were getting ready to film some scenes for a Korean movie!
3 bonus point for cool interior!
The tables are nothing fancy, but I like the way you can divide areas with bamboo curtains! And every table has an impressive burner system for a Korean BBQ Feast! This definitely lures me to come back for an evening of BBQ! 3 bonus points for making me want to come back!
Lunch specials start at $5.95, which is pretty amazing! They call them "lunch boxes" (not Bento) and I think Don's expression reveals disappointment that his lunch box came without a Scooby Doo or Flinstone picture. But he said the BBQ pork was delicious. The "omlettey egg pattie" next to the sushi was curious...and the tangy pickles and stewed potatoes were actually very yummy. We had a hard time communicating with Ping to know what some of the vegetables were...but all in all, tasty.
1 bonus for good lunch price!
A Dish that Sizzles and Snaps at You!
Now, here is the dish I'm coming back for! Kim Chi! I thought Ping said it was vegetarian, but there were small chunks of beef. Luckily, I'm okay with that!
When Ping delivered this dramatic hot pot to the table it was like fireworks! I took one look at the sizzling dish of rice, cabbage and beef and my glasses steamed up!
Ping and the other server seemed delighted to help a first-timer. They hovered over me with long handled spoons and helped stir the mixture quickly. They showed me how to scrape the bottom, where rice had continued to cook against the scalding pot. It formed crusty chunks that I will describe as "flavor burst". 5 points for my meal with "flavor bursts!" Okay, I give credit to my sister Jennifer, who coined that term when she was little...begging my mom to NOT mash the potatoes too well or there would be no flavor bursts!
It's possible I might not have ordered Kim Chi had I realized it is a traditional fermented Korean dish. The mixture of "baechu" or Napa cabbage, onion, chili peppers and seasonings are left for days...in dark creepy places to ferment. You would expect it would take a while for a dish like this to "grow on you" just like it takes days to ferment. But I loved it at the first bite. My lips were stinging somewhat by the end, but I ate every bit! 5 bonus points for loving something that sounds disgusting!
Total of 18 points for Arirang Korean!
The Dining Blog
This is a blog about Dining Adventures. Sometimes, I talk about food. Below, you can read how this started.
On July 4th 2011, I set a goal to try 50 culturally diverse restaurants in one year! (I knew that was possible, living in the Houston area) I spent the year pulling in friends and family to join me, on some unusual dining adventures. I met some curious people, tried some scary foods and explored places and cultures I never would have otherwise. Even though I met my goal, I learned too much to end my adventures in dining. I have continued blogging about memorable dining adventures of all kinds, near and far... and all the discoveries and funny things I've learned along the way!
Locations and types of dining adventures, are listed further down.