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.
Koreana offers classic Korean barbecue, outfitting each table with its own grill to create a custom dining experience with built-in entertainment. Warm up maxillo-muscles with an avocado salad ($7) or the shrimp tempura, outfitted with a suit of crispy, golden armor ($10). Then, employ the classic good-cop/bad-cop technique to grill alternating edibles; two grill orders are required to use the grill. The pork bulgogi is a savory option, with slices of chili-paste-marinated pork bathing in a sweet and spicy soy sauce ($19), and the chadol baegi logs in as another meat nominee, casting sweet soy sauce and salted sesame oil in a beef brisket production that guarantees odd couple hilarity ($20). Vassals to the vegetable have plenty of options at Koreana, including barbecued tofu ($16) and rice entrees such as the bokembop, a Korean fried rice full of buried vegetable, egg, and kimchee treasure ($10). Flame-fearing foodies also have plenty of uncooked options, including salmon or yellowtail sushi rolls ($4.50 each). Kids get to pick on something their own size, such as the chicken teriyaki with a fried dumpling ($8).
Trafficking in traditional Korean barbecue and sushi, the chefs at Apgujung engineer a poly-flavored menu populated with a flotilla of entertaining edibles. Apgujung kick-starts midday meals with teriyaki, tempura, or katsu bento boxes ($9.50) or ladles of spicy soondubu jjigae soup ($9.95), a soft tofu stew known for its mix of seafood and tendency to back down from fights. Sea fare sneaks its way into dinner with pancake appetizers adorned with seafood, scallions, or kimchi ($7.95–$9.95) or oysters masked by a deep-fried chrysalis of japanese breadcrumb batter. Chefs grill the shrimp-and-scallop teriyaki ($17.95) in a house glaze and marinate the thinly sliced pork bulgogi ($17.95) in a fiery chili sauce. The house special okdol bibimbap ($12.50–$16.50) lands on tables in a hot stone bowl to give its contents a toasty flavor and time to cook while the guest eats to save chefs time to work on their culinary mystery novels. Diners can meander through a daunting collection of sushi offerings, including thin seaweed rolls and inside-out rolls, or charter 30-piece sushi boats ($39.95+) for the night captained by stern, bearded bottles of soy sauce.
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.
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.