Dinner at New Jang Su.

I haven’t had Korean barbecue in years; the last time was probably when I was in Seoul as a sullen and angsty teenager.  When Keith suggested trying out a place in Burlington known for its authenticity, I knew I wanted to check it out and see if the barbecue was as good as I remembered.

In absolute honesty, the exterior of New Jang Su is nothing to write home about.  In fact, the restaurant is most definitely a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of joint.  Keith and I even pulled into the wrong parking lot on the drive in.  Once we did find the right entrance, I squinted up at the flickering, faded sign illuminating the doorway.  Any doubts I had about being in the wrong place slipped out of my mind the moment I saw a group of Korean men gathered in front of the entrance. The interior of New Jang Su is equally worn and sparse, but the crowded tables definitely spoke to the reasons why: the fantastic smell of meat cooking.

Before we got down to the business of barbecue, I knew I would have to get some pancakes.  I’ve never been much for typical breakfast-esque pancakes, but I’ve yet to meet a savory pancake I haven’t fallen madly in love with.  The go-chu pajun ($12.99) was no exception — the pancake had a springy, chewy texture, but the scallions and peppers remained crunchy and crisp.  I drizzled a sweet-and-spicy sauce over a few bites; it enhanced the flavor by such a surprising degree that I started to eat as slowly as possible so as to relish each taste even more.

Something else I’m incapable of  resisting are any sort of noodles; if I could get away with it, I would probably eat noodles every day.  Since, unfortunately, that’s not possible, I decided to give in to my sick, sick cravings and dive right into an order of bibim naeng myun ($11.99).  At first, our waitress tried to get us to order another dish, since the one I chose is served cold; I happen to really enjoy a cold noodle dish, so we encouraged her to bring out the buckwheat noodles.  Served with spicy beef, a hard-boiled egg and vegetables, it was a great complement to the barbecue cooking in front of us.

We ordered, as usual, an almost ridiculous amount of food — short ribs ($18.99), pork loin ($15.99) and sam gyup sal, or bacon ($13.99).  My favorite by far was the short ribs, which we wrapped in lettuce leaves smeared with a sweet bean paste.  The pork loin was good, although nothing out of the ordinary.  The bacon, on the other hand, was interesting in that each piece had been stripped of fat; regardless, the meat stayed moist and flavorful.  Though it was tasty, nothing in my mind could compare with the delicious short ribs.  Tender and succulent, it was the highlight of the meal.

While New Jang Su isn’t conveniently located for me, it’s certainly worth a trip to suburbia.  However, if you can’t get past things such as slightly sticky menus and harsh lighting, this restaurant is not for you.  If you do look for wonderful food and efficient service, you should get in the car right now.  Just make sure you keep an eye out — this spot is easy to miss.

New Jang Su
260 Cambridge Street
Burlington, Massachusetts 01803
781.272.3787

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Dinner at Red Bones.

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My cousin Niki moved to Boston (and the States in general) from the Philippines in January, and I’m thrilled beyond the gills that she is obsessed with food, just like me. We’ve gone out twice now and have plans to keep doing so; unsurprisingly, most of our schemes involve eating.

Last night Keith and I took her to Red Bones, a barbecue joint in our old neighborhood. When we lived within walking distance we used to go down quite frequently; now that we’ve moved away it’s not nearly as easy to meander down the bike path for some ribs and pulled pork. When we have friends visiting from out of town — or relatives who are new to town — we almost always bring them to Red Bones. In fact, Keith first took me years ago, before I had memorized the subway system. That was my introduction to barbecue; I come from Armenian/Lebanese/Filipino/Asian stock, and the only barbecue I knew prior involved potato chips. (For the record, I only like Wise.)

For me, Red Bones is all about two things: corn fritters and barbecue hash. Dense and chewy, the corn fritters arrive in a bowl of maple syrup and are absolutely delicious. How could they be otherwise, with their pool of syrup? The hash has no syrup, but it does have a fantastic texture and an even better combinations of flavors — tangy, vinegary, spicy. I order both fritters and hash, in appetizer sizes, and make my meal out of that, without fail. Last night we also shared some hush puppies; whenever I eat these puffy cornmeal balls, I’m always surprised by how strangely well the taste goes with the sour vinegar dipping sauce.

Part of what makes Red Bones so fantastic is the atmosphere; it is laid-back and convivial to such an extent that it’s no wonder that the bar, upstairs dining room and downstairs space is always busy. On Monday night, every table in the black-walled basement was taken. And why shouldn’t it be thus? The cornbread is freshly baked, the beverages are served in Mason jars, the beer selection remains impressively diverse, and the barbecue is literally finger-licking good.

Red Bones
55 Chester Street
Somerville, Massachusetts 02144
617.628.2200
redbones.com

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