Banchan are the small side dishes served with Korean barbecue, and at Yasu, you get 10. As diners pile these pickled vegetables and seafood concoctions on sizzling short ribs and cuts of ribeye, chefs slice gems of raw fish for sushi and cook up hot katsu and tempura dishes.
The cocktail known as the Charles River Fishbowl at Myung Dong 1st Ave is named after the waterway that snakes through Boston, but that’s where the similarities end. The quart-sized Fishbowl—which is also available in a half-gallon version for up to four drinkers or one off-the-wagon goldfish—isn’t filled with water, but soju, a sweet South Korean rice vodka, which mixologists elevate with fruit juices and a garnish of gummy worms. When opening their business, the founders of Myung Dong 1st Ave tailored their offerings to attract a young dive-bar crowd, and they’ve certainly achieved that goal. Thumping hip-hop tunes set the mood as revelers sip the country’s liquors, beers, and wines, many of which come in vessels that require two hands to hold. A reviewer from The Boston Phoenix particularly enjoyed the soju-soaked honeydew melon, a combination that makes the already tame alcohol “sweet to slurp.” A sip of Korean alcohol is bound to inspire cravings for Korean cuisine, and luckily, Myung Dong pairs its libations with a full food menu. Some bites are specifically meant to go with beverages. The aptly named dried beer-snacks platter contains helpings of dried squid, peanuts, and other slightly salty, easy-to-munch items. But many plates constitute a full meal, and typically require utensils or sleek, stainless-steel fingers for consumption. Selections include the barbecued beef short ribs, bibimbop bowls, and the eel teriyaki, which the Phoenix reviewer lauded simply as “really great.”
Green Line riders and Boston University students pack into the bustling Super 88 Food Court to sip bubble tea and fill up on Vietnamese, Chinese, and Indian food. There, Misono Grill serves up Korean staples like broiled eel and bulgogi beef and chicken.
Chinese influences are at work here, and not just on the menu—Buk Kyung is “Beijing” in Korean. Owners Seung Ki Lee and Kyung Sook made innumerable trips to Seoul before opening the restaurant in order to procure flour for their homemade noodles and dumplings and to perfect their signature seafood and pork stir-fry in black bean sauce.
Continuing an age-old Japanese culinary tradition, Shabu-Ya specializes in shabu-shabu, or hot pot––a modern take on the steaming soups historically eaten by Genghis Khan and his armies. The café's sleekly modern interior is designed to evoke the colors and shapes of this signature dish, from vegetable-green couches to round hanging lights that recall bubbles in boiling broth. Meals can begin with seaweed-encircled sushi while diners decide which meats and veggies to simmer in a choice of shabu-shabu broths such as Korean kimchi and vegetarian mushroom. Kitchen specials also offer Black Angus rib eye or chili-marinated pork bulgoki to build hearty hot pots, and are flavorful ways to change up an all-mayonnaise diet.
There’s nothing quite like savoring a sizzling morsel of bulgogi straight from the tabletop grill at a Korean barbecue joint, and Koreana is consistently rated among the city’s best. The grills feature custom smoke ventilation, so you can breathe easily as you pair freshly grilled meats with a bounty of side dishes. Newbies, never fear: the staff is quite accommodating to first-time grillers.