By Meredith Munk Special to The Herald
Open less than three months, Jong Ga, a restaurant at Snohomish Station, offers authentic Korean fare in a pleasant environment.
It has a tasteful, almost minimalist decor with modern lines and, in spite of the chocolate brown paint and wood tone tables, the wall of windows make it bright. The menu is color coordinated with the restaurant’s decor and style and makes ordering easy. Each item is described and includes a photograph. While the Korean names of dishes are listed, the potential for embarrassing mispronunciations is eliminated.
Instead of ordering Gal Bi (grilled beef short ribs in a house special sauce, $12.99) just say G1. Instead of Buh Sut Soon Tofu Jji Gae (spicy or nonspicy soft tofu soup with mushrooms and egg, $8.99), you can comfortably order J4.
Something else I really liked about Jung Ga was the willingness with which the server explained the dishes. We were surprised with a complimentary plate of appetizers, including kim chee (fermented napa cabbage), small pieces of an eggy “pancake” and mild, steamed spinach.
The severs also politely questioned us about our “comfort with the use of chopsticks,” as only spoons and chopsticks are set on the table.
Our lunch started with a large mug of hot Korean tea. Different from familiar black or green tea, it was milder and hit the spot on a cold February day. Being a novice about Korean food (yes, I ordered by letter and number; yes, I requested a fork), I ordered Bi Bim Bap (R1 for $10.99). With this rice dish selection, you get a choice of beef, chicken or mushroom. It was served in a large soup bowl with an abundance of vegetables and a bowl of rice on the side.
The small strips of carrot, sliced zucchini, bean sprouts, onions and spinach all had their own individual Korean spiced flavor. I could taste that my chicken was grilled, which added another layer of flavor.
If you have any concern about a dish being too spicy, Bi Bim Bap is a good choice for you. A large bottle of gochujang (go-jew-chang) is provided to allow each dish be personalized with the preferred degree of heat.
Gochujang, the Korean version of salsa, is a fermented condiment made from soybean paste, glutinous rice powder, red chilies and salt. It adds both heat and flavor. Besides the rice dishes, there are grilled options, several soup dishes (substantial enough to be a meal, $8.99-9.99), combination plates ($14.99 to $15.99) and specials ($10 to $12.99).
Another good option if you are a newcomer to Korean flavors is the Bento Box meal. Called a DoSiRak ($15.99), this one has no shortcut name; just say “bento.” It comes in a traditional Japanese looking bento box , with a choice of bulgogi (thinly sliced beef in a slightly sweet sauce with vegetables), kalbi (beef short ribs in a house sauce) or spicy pork.
The bulgogi came with a generous amount of vegetables and tender strips of beef. Three gyoza (pork pot stickers with a good ginger flavor), four pieces of kim bab (a twin brother of sushi — egg, carrot, ham, yellow radish, spinach and rice rolled in nori), a cold glass noodle “salad” and a pan fried vegetable and egg patty filled the bento box compartments. The variety of flavors, textures and sensations was great.
My favorite, however, was the soup that came with it. The spicy soft tofu soup arrived at the table still sizzling. This reddish soup held large chunks of silky tofu, which melted in your mouth. Lots of green onion and a couple of small pieces of beef floated in the soup, but the star of the dish was the tofu. It picked up all of the flavors and spiciness of that broth.
True to its spicy name, you can feel it on your tongue for quite a while after your meal. But in a good way.
Jong Ga’s emphasis is authentic flavors, well tailored for those unfamiliar with the Korean fare. If you like to experience new tastes and a variety of flavorful vegetables and meats, check out this spot in Snohomish Station.
Snohomish Station, 2801 Bickford Ave, Snohomish; 425-789-1630
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays.
Vegetarian options: Yes.