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.”
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.
With 12 distinctive sauces coating their classic chicken wings and boneless tenders, the cooks at Wing Works Kitchen do their best to change people's perceptions of what chicken really tastes like. They pair their poultry with classic American flavors, such as mild buffalo sauce, complimented by a menu of burgers and fries. They also collect tastes from halfway around the globe, whipping up a Hawaiian-teriyaki sauce for their tenders and serving Korean spicy pork and sticky rice with a side of housemade kimchee.
In the dining room, a fleet of televisions invites neighborhood regulars to take in a Celtics or Bruins game while dipping the opposing team's jersey in a vat of their favorite sauce.
At The Ginger Pad, a casual atmosphere blends with the rich aromas of garlic, thai basil, and chili sauce hanging in the air to help guests forget the world outside. Like a suspension bridge made out of udon noodles, the menu connects distant lands through food, laying out delicious examples of Malaysian, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisine. Spring rolls or edamame preempt dives into salty-sweet pad thai or korean beef barbecue. Chopsticks can also lift spicy sichuan shrimp to mouths or gently cradle sushi rolls that combine colorful mango and avocado with fresh tobiko, tuna, salmon, and scallops.
Sushi Box's menus draw from the culinary traditions of Japan, Thailand, and Korea, filling white-swathed tables with pan-regional dishes. Chefs glaze entrees of beef ribs, stir-fried kimchi, and thinly sliced pork with incendiary sauces, earning praise from the Boston Phoenix in 2009 for their ability to "showcase the joys of Korean cuisine." They also simmer vegetables in thai curry sauces and fill their specialty maki with premium sushi ingredients, including sweet-potato tempura and nori harvested by mermaids.