Since 1988, Charlie Kangs Restaurant has treated its customers to hearty, homey Korean and Chinese cuisine. Tender morsels of beef, fresh veggies, and fried egg bubble in stone bowls of bibimbap, and jajangmyeon noodles glisten with a savory black-soybean sauce.
New Seoul Garden’s chefs conduct culinary tours of East Asia without setting foot on the continent. Instead, they bring the food stateside through a hefty menu of Korean and Japanese specialties, including barbecue and sushi. Like shark-themed mylar balloons, most of their entrees celebrate seafood such as sushi with squid and salmon, though many plates star beef or chicken. Hot-pot dishes actually simmer at the table; rolls of soft-shell crab or sweet shrimp come into being at the sushi bar. The restaurant's interior itself bespeaks Asian roots; spindly tree branches open toward a skylight and several low tables are ringed with mats or seats for sitting on the floor. East Asian fans and artwork cover the walls, culminating in a rooftop tier that evokes a pagoda.
Tamaki’s menu encourages customers to play with their food. That’s because they can design their own sushi selecting a seaweed, soy, or Korean BBQ wrap that a cook will stuff with proteins such as roasted chicken, spicy crab, pulled pork, and roasted tofu. They finish off each creation with unlimited veggies, sauces, and crunchy toppings such as sesame seeds.
The seasoned chefs at Biwako Sushi, led by head chef and owner Andy Kwon, concoct a variety of traditional Japanese and Korean dishes, often experimenting with playful sushi arrangements. Rolls can be found laid out in neatly staggered rainbow rows, organized into the shape of a heart pierced by an arrow, or arranged as tiny dioramas populated with plants, sushi clusters, and tiny sushi traffic lights. Casual splashes of soy sauce and garnishes surround exotic and custom rolls, tightly wrapping ingredients such as tempura shrimp, masago, and eel.
The more than 25-dish menu also encompasses Korean meals such as kalbi, bibimbap, and tonkatsu, letting diners sample a range of flavors without having to stow away in a UN ambassador's luggage. When not crafting dishes in the secrecy of the kitchen, Chef Kwon teaches others the art of sushi-roll preparation in hands-on classes.
Tian Chu's eclectic menu of pan-Asian cuisine represents its founders’ rich past. The Korean Cui family originally opened the restaurant in the Jilin province of China in 1983 before relocating to Budapest, Hungary, and rapidly expanding to five locations. Their beloved recipes followed them to Ann Arbor, where they opened a restaurant in 2010.
The family embraces their roots by filling the menu with a spread of familiar Korean, Sichuan, and Cantonese dishes. Marinated short ribs, lo mein, and bibimbap served in traditional hot stone pots all help to lend a storied, multiregional appeal to the expansive selection while giving bodies the nourishment they need for unpremeditated participation in Ironman triathlons.
The fare in an average lunch box is typically nothing to get very excited about, as it usually consists of convenient foods such as leftovers or crumbs found in between the couch cushions. But Tomo's bento boxes break the mold and eschew the cartoon characters, too. In each box, the chef pairs the sushi or sashimi of the day with gyoza, inari—fried tofu—barbecue beef, or tempura. Boxes are complemented by orders of baked mussels, fried chicken wings, and mushrooms stuffed with spicy tuna.