I know next to nothing about Korean food, except that I really enjoyed a recent lunch at Shin Chon Garden. While I didn’t elect to cook my own meal at the table, it was still a new experience.
Before your order is taken, banchan are set out. These are small appetizer-sized dishes meant to be shared by the table. We noted pickled cucumbers, mushrooms, sprout salad, kimchi, and a few other zingy dishes that we couldn’t readily identify. No matter, we left most of the dishes empty by the end of the meal.
I ordered the Beef Bulgogi Box ($8), expecting a smaller portion. I was wrong. Horribly wrong, but in a wonderful way. In addition to the entree, the box contained two pork dumplings, a spring salad with citrus dressing, two hand rolls, sticky rice topped with sesame seeds, some sort of pickled vegetable (beets, we thought), and a vinegar/soy dipping sauce. I passed the rolls off to a coworker who would better appreciate them, but otherwise I indulged and enjoyed everything there. The beef bulgogi itself was tender and flavorful, served mixed with julienne onions, sesame seeds, and green onions. All was marinated in a rich and savory broth; I made a point to finish it off as a marinade for the rice I had left over.
There’s a lot more to explore here.
Located in Ellicott City off of Baltimore National Pike, the first thing I noticed when we arrived was the stack of Korean newspapers and journals stacked on the floor by the door. As far as authenticity goes, that’s never a bad sign. Neither is the lack of English-speaking patrons and staff; if you don’t speak fluent Korean you’ll be in the minority. The menu is written in both English and Korean, but without much in the way of description. Our server managed the basics of our order without too much difficulty, but our follow-up questions took a little more effort. We were fortunate to have a native-speaking coworker with us, who translated, described what each dish would be like, and made recommendations for us.
One tip: since barbeque is done out in the eating area, expect pungent aromas and strong flavors. If you have clothes that you don’t want to absorb the smells of your meal, you shouldn’t wear them to Shin Chon.
If you insist on English-speaking servers or knowing exactly what you’re eating down to the individual ingredients, Shin Chon probably isn’t for you. I wouldn’t let that stop you, however, since you’ll be missing out.