#206: Da Jung

Yesterday for an early dinner I headed out to Da Jung, a Sushi Bar & Korean Grill that has moved into the old Tomi space at E. Roseville Pkwy and N. Sunrise.  They opened just over a month ago.  I was fairly excited to try Roseville’s 2nd Korean restaurant.

I arrived at about 4:50PM with a big appetite.  I had a feeling I would be ordering a lot of food.  As I mentioned in the Tomi write up (which you may want to check out for a few more angles of the interior), this is a very big space.  It has a large and open entryway with a tall ceiling and a massive chandelier which looks like it could crush an adult if it dropped.  Through a few large panes of stylized “shattered” glass you can see a part of the dining room.  As you turn left and enter the restaurant itself, you pretty much see everything as it opens up in front of you.

A big portion of the old buffet has been remodeled and turned into a sushi bar.  The far end of the buffet seemed to be cleverly repurposed to hold all the traditional Korean side dishes (or banchan).  The restaurant was pretty quiet, I think there may have been 2-3 tables occupied at the time.  As I stepped out of the entry way I was greeted, first by the sushi chef, then by my waitress who turned around at his greeting and then led me to a table next to the shattered glass window.  I had stopped in briefly when they opened to grab a menu and see what the place looked like.  At the time I didn’t really notice any changes at all, and I especially noticed the lack of the tables with grills built-in, or so I thought.  I must have actually noticed the lack of exhaust hoods, because they certainly do have grill-tables.  I guess they must be electric and the building has adequate ventilation.

I was seated at a normal table and I set about going over the menu.  I was determined to order a Korean BBQ dish and then a sushi roll or something on the side.  This is the one thing about Korean BBQ that keeps me from having it that often, it’s a bit pricey.  If you want to go full blown BBQ, as in at your table, it’s going to be $17-25 for one type of meat here.  They do have some combos, and the combos come in lunch or dinner sizes/prices, but even lunch is going to run you at least $14.  I figured that the combo would be the most affordable way for me to get some BBQ while leaving room to try some sushi as well, even though it would be a lot of food.  The combos come with Assorted Soon Tofu.  I had absolutely no idea what that was.

When my server came by to see if I was ready to order, I explained that I was interested in doing a combo, but that I wasn’t sure what the Soon Tofu was.  At first she sort of just started to point out the individual items on the menu that made up the combo I had pointed to, but then realized what I was actually asking and kind of summed it up as a tofu stew.  Sounded good enough to me so I went ahead and ordered the Spicy Pork Bulgogi Combo [$16.95].  Along with that I had picked out the Da Jung Special Roll (In: asparagus, tuna, jalapeño, salmon, with fish avocado. Out: crunch, yum yum sauce, eel sauce)[$12.95].  She informed me that all rolls were buy one get one free right now, and I’m not one to turn down a bonus roll.  I quickly skimmed down the rolls list once more and chose the What the Hell (Deep Fried – In: jalapeño, spicy tuna, cream cheese. Out: spicy eel sauce)[normally $11.95].  A fitting name for the roll based on how I decided on it.  This was turning out to be a ridiculously sized dinner.  To drink I had a Mr. Pibb [$1.75]

With my order out of the way I had a moment to look around and see what had changed.  Aside from the buffet’s new dual use setup and some grill-tables here and there, they had added some TVs, and that’s about it.  The place was pretty nice before so I don’t blame them at all for keeping it mostly the same.  I didn’t wait around looking a at the scenery for too long because my food came out in a very speedy 12 minutes.  It took her a few trips to deliver the soon tofu bowl, the spicy pork bulgogi, the large platter with both my rolls on it, and then 7 side dishes as well as a small bowl of rice.  The pork and tofu were both extremely hot with the tofu steaming like crazy.  I took a couple minutes to photograph everything while those cooled off a bit.

A wooden box of silverware was brought to my table and had everything I could need in it.  I grabbed a fork, spoon and chopsticks.  Similarly to UMI Sushi, these chopsticks were not disposable, but while UMI’s were wooden, these were metal.  I ended up not using them that much though because with so much in front of me, it was a little annoying to be switching utensils every other bite.  This was, I think, the very first time I’ve eaten sushi with a fork.  It was weird and strangely more difficult than I expected.  The Da Jung roll was enjoyable throughout.  Inside was a fairly good sized chunk of tuna and a slightly smaller piece of salmon.  In-between those was the asparagus, which was actually deep fried in tempura batter.  The asparagus, aside from the tempura, still had some snap to it and a crunch of it’s own.  I didn’t taste the spice of the jalapeño and I have no idea what “fish avocado” is, but it seemed like normal avocado to me.  The sauces were tasty and, other than the side dishes, this being the coldest thing on the table made it a go to to mix things up.

The What the Hell roll, being deep fried, had a nice crispy outside to it, though it seemed to be something other than the usual tempura batter.  It was a thinner, denser type of coating.  This was warm as well as being on the creamy side with the cream cheese.  There was a bit of spice from the spicy tuna, but once again I didn’t really taste the jalapeño.  Overall I thought it was good as well.

I picked at the sides a bit here and there, some more than others.  I made a point to try each one at least once.  Most of these looked like they could be described as pickled.  The zucchini was definitely so.  Even though I’m not a huge fan of pickled things, I was surprised by how much I didn’t hate many of the sides.  In fact, I actually kind of liked most of them.  Big exception to the kimchi though.  As much as I try to enjoy kimchi it never happens.  I’ve told myself over and over that if tens, if not hundreds, of millions of people in the world can love it then I should be able to at least like it a little bit.  Nope.  Can’t stand the stuff.  I try it every time and every time one bite is enough.  Anyway, most of these were pretty decent.  There was the zucchini, some sort of noodles, I think shredded radish, something that reminded me of quiche, and the last two I have no idea.

On to the soon tofu.  Now that it had cooled down (though it was still extremely hot), I scooped up a spoon full from beneath the nearly opaque reddish-orange surface.  The spoon came up with almost entirely tofu.  There were some bits of greens, onions and a couple other veggies in there but for the most part it was entirely tofu.  Looking back at the menu, it seems like it should have had more to it as Assorted Soon Tofu is described as having beef, shrimp and clams.  Oh well, I had no idea at the time so I ate away.  Apparently the rice goes with the soon tofu, which I also didn’t realize.  I mostly ate it with bites of the bulgogi.  The tofu was, well, tofu.  Bland, almost jello-like white cubes.  The broth was intensely flavorful though.  At first I did not like it at all.  It had a distinctly seaweed kind of flavor going on.  A few spoonfuls later I decided it was maybe more like green tea, then I got used to it.  It was quite savory and I could see this being a pretty nice warm thing to have in the winter.  I enjoyed it a little bit more with every bite.

Finally, my most anticipated item, the spicy pork bulgogi.  Easily enough for two people, this was piled up on a hot oval dish sitting on a wooden block.  It was everything I wanted it to be.  Although it wasn’t really that spicy, it was intensely flavorful with the rich, savory marinade that had just a hint of sweetness.  The pork was all perfectly cooked, from the majority of lean bites to a scattered few fatty bits here and there.  Every piece was tender and insanely delicious.  I had the remaining half of this for lunch today and it was still amazing even heated up in the microwave.

I have to say I am extremely pleased that Tomi was replaced with this.  That was one of a very select few restaurants in Roseville that I actively hoped would close, and now we get another Korean place in return, which is something the whole Sacramento area needs more of, in my opinion.  The prices seem to be right in line with Iron Grill, the service was good, helpful and patient.  The place remains looking new and clean.  The only downside is the awful parking lot.  I think they built it with Mini Coopers and Smart Cars in mind.  I nearly got my front bumper taken off by someone when I attempted to leave.  Anyway, very happy with Da Jung.  Oh, one thing I’ve been meaning to mention.  Ever since I saw the name I can’t say it in my head without the intonation of saying da Bears.  I’ll leave you with that.  Da Jung.

No Website, no Facebook page….

(Scanned) Menu: Click Here

#152: Asian Bliss

Some time ago I noticed that Mongolian Bliss had been replaced by a new restaurant called Asian Bliss.  I thought it might be the same restaurant with a branding change, but it looks to be something entirely different.  They conveniently kept the “Bliss” portion of the sign and added “Asian” with a little sun to make up the extra space since Mongolian was much longer, and the color changed to green.

I met up with my parents for dinner at 6PM tonight.  We headed inside and it was clear that they had very minimal work to do in changing over the dining room, as in almost none.  It’s basically identical.  The kitchen is a different story.  I imagine removing the circular grill and changing out the buffet counter for a regular one took a little effort.  We were the only customers when we entered, and just one other person came in briefly to pick up a to go order while we were there.  Very, very quiet for a Friday night.  We were greeted immediately by pretty much the only employee I saw.  I caught a quick glimpse of someone back in the kitchen once, but other than that it was just the four of us up front.  He had us sit anywhere we liked and we took a booth near the front.  He brought us waters in neon-blue plastic cups and my dad asked about the beer selection, which he listed off quickly.  They had about 4 or 5 to choose from, half domestic and half Japanese, all bottled I believe.  Back past the counter you can see a series of shelves with one of each on display.  He went with a Kirin, which was brought out quickly in a cold glass.

The menu is quite small, evenly divided between appetizers, small plates, full entrees and rolls.  A lot of it is on the Japanese side of the Asian spectrum, with Udon noodles, Teriyaki, Bento boxes and rolls.  They have a few other items like Korean BBQ, Thai chicken and a Mongolian dish.  We pretty quickly decided on our entrees.  We ordered an appetizer of mixed tempura[$8.95] which he got started immediately, then returned for our main food order.  The tempura arrived within 5 minutes and was very hot, as it usually is everywhere.  A massive onion ring topped a selection of veggies and shrimp.  Potato, carrot, squash and broccoli were found., maybe one or two others.  We thought initially that they didn’t serve it with dipping sauce, but he returned immediately with the little dish.  As with most places that serve this, it was pretty solid.  It’s hard to mess up tempura (I’m guessing).

Ten minutes later he brought out salads.  My parents each ordered a roll and a side salad[$2].  I had ordered the Korean BBQ[$12.95] which included the same side salad.  Like Blue Nami or other sushi places, the dressing was creamy, yet light and sweet.  This consisted of crisp lettuce, cucumbers, carrots and broccoli.  It was great.  The rolls came out at about the same time and were relegated to the center of the table while the salads were worked on.  My Korean BBQ came about a minute later and I ate them side by side.  My parents both said they really liked the rolls.  They were the RedRose Roll (Crab meat, avocado, cucumber, carrot, spicy tuna with sauce and green onion)[$11.45] and the Dragon Roll (Crab meat, cucumber, avocado, smoked shrimp with sauce and tobiko)[$11.45].  I had a few bites of the Dragon roll which was pretty good.  The smoked shrimp seemed just like regular tempura shrimp to me and had a nice crunch to it.

My Korean BBQ was kalbi – marinated and grilled short ribs.  Served up with a side of rice, this was a pile of thin sliced beef on the bone.  Eating this with chopsticks served to be quote a challenge, and I ended up picking up each piece by hand, grabbing it by the bone.  It was messy, but much easier.  The very first piece I picked up had some fairly tough, chewy bits on it.  Every piece after that, however, was incredibly tender and mostly came right off the bone with very little effort.  The meat was fantastically flavorful and had a sweet but savory, teriyaki-like flavoring to it.  The rice was not as soft as I expected.  A little soy sauce over top and this was a nice side.

Overall we were pretty impressed with this little restaurant.  Our server was on top of things (as you would expect being the only customers), refilling waters and checking up on us routinely.  I think it was just a touch on the pricey side, but that’s really the only small negative I can think of.  It’s sad to see a somewhat different yet tasty Mongolian place disappear, but this is a worthy replacement.  I hope they get some more customers and stick around for longer than Mongolian Bliss!

#78: Iron Grill Korean BBQ

It finally happened, we now have a Korean BBQ restaurant in Roseville.  As far as I know the only other one in the area was Oz Korean BBQ at Bradshaw & 50, which is not exactly a convenient location coming from here.  Because of that I’ve not had as much of it as I would like.

My first experience with Korean BBQ was actually in Korea about 3 years ago.  I traveled to visit a friend who was there teaching english and had Korean BBQ the very first night.  It was a bit overwhelming to say the least.  The table was full of little plates and the owner was constantly coming by to add more fresh seafood to the grill in the center of all the clutter.  It was also that night that I realized I would either learn how to use chopsticks or starve.  Then there was the “fresh” baby octopus.

Anyway, since then I’ve mostly only been to Korean places in the bay area, particularly a buffet called Palace BBQ Buffet in Sunnyvale, which is awesome because this type of food can get expensive fast.  So as I mentioned we finally have one close by.  Iron Grill Korean BBQ is located in the Rocky Ridge Town Center across from Kaiser on Douglas.  In addition to to the normal Korean selections they also have a large selection of sushi, including sashimi, nigiri, and rolls.  It’s a good sized restaurant that take up two of the smaller units.  About one-half to two-thirds of the dining room is set up for table-top grilling.  The rest are normal tables and they also have a sushi bar.

I came for lunch with a couple of friends last weekend on a Saturday and we were seated at a table with a grill since we knew we’d be ordering from that side of the menu.  The staff was extremely attentive while we looked over the menu.  Since most of my Korean BBQ experience involved either someone else ordering or serve yourself buffet style, it took a while to carefully go over the menu and figure out what we should get.  During this time at least two servers checked on us numerous times (one of my friends was actually a little annoyed by this, I didn’t mind though).  Before we had ordered, a complimentary roll was served to us.  I’m not sure if this is a standard thing here or just something they are doing since they are new, but it was a nice touch.  It was a mostly crab filled roll, so probably a California roll of some variety.  It was simple but well made, and a tasty appetizer.

Eventually we had made up our minds and a server was right there moments later.  We ordered from the dinner menu and chose three items from the table top BBQ section.  Galbee [(beef short ribs) Our famous short ribs marinated for 36 hours with soy sauce], Bulgogi [Thinly sliced ribeye marinated in special sauce] & Spicy Pork [Sliced pork with our chili pepper paste marinade (available non spicy)].

Before the meat came out we were each served a small salad which was very fresh, green and crisp.  I don’t recall what the dressing was but I do remember liking it.  As we were finishing those up, the side dishes, or banchan, were being served.  There was about a five or so minute gap between this and the main meats arriving, so we had time to explore the four small dishes.  The first and most recognizable one was kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage – a generalization, there seem to be limitless variations out there).  I’ve never been really into the idea of kimchi just based on what it is.  However, I decided that since millions of people regularly enjoy and look forward to it, I can at least give it a fair shot now and then.  I had just a couple bites of this kimchi.  I’m still convinced it’s an acquired taste, one that I have not acquired yet.  I didn’t think it was bad though, so that’s something I guess.  I’ll keep at it.

The next one was some type of sprouts, which after a little searching and comparing online I’ve decided was a type of bean sprouts.  These were good and pretty much what you might expect of bean sprouts.  The next two dishes were much harder to identify.  In fact, I still have no idea what they were (yes, I probably should have just asked while I was there) so if you do, please leave me a comment!  My friends decided that one of them was a kind of thinly sliced potatoes in a sauce.  The other was seriously from another planet.  They were the lightest, most colorless noodle-looking things I’ve seen, and the texture was even more bizarre.  Instead of a crunch, they seemed to “pop” between your teeth.  They didn’t have much if any flavor, but they were so fascinating that I probably ate more of these than anything else.

On came the main course.  Our server brought the three meats on a large, nicely garnished platter and placed the first round on the grill for us.  He placed the galbee and bulgogi as well as some onions, jalapeños and mushrooms. During this and while I was taking photos, a man who I’m assuming was either the manager, owner or both, came by to watch for a moment.  Probably to make sure everything was going smoothly.  Our server suggested we do the spicy pork last as the marinade tends to stick to the grill and can apply itself to anything put on after.  We enjoyed watching the meats sizzle for a few minutes before he came back to give them all a turn and cut them with scissors into more manageable, bite sized pieces.  Eventually we were all picking bits of meat from the grill and going to town.  Each one was super flavorful and tender.  The bulgogi and spicy pork were my favorites, although I also very much enjoyed the galbee.  There’s something special about eating right off the grill which is also why I love teppanyaki style restaurants like Benihana as well.  For the most part we were left on our own to cook the rest of the meats, which I enjoy a lot.  I’m pretty certain they would have been more than happy to handle all of it if we asked though.  I’ve had that type of service at other places before.

My friends seemed to generally enjoy the meal, but they definitely weren’t as happy with it overall as I was.  I just enjoy the experience so much because it’s so much different than anything else.  The smells and sounds of food cooking just a foot from you is fantastic, and it’s worth the price in my opinion.  I don’t recall the subtotal, but after tip I think we spent around $60 altogether, which really isn’t that bad.  I’ll definitely be back.

I asked the server if they had a website, and he seemed certain they did but was unable to point me to an address aside from telling me to Google it or find it through a link on Yelp, which I was unable to do.  I’m not convinced they have one…  If you do and you’re reading this, please prove me wrong.

See below for a link to the menu that I scanned.

Scanned Menu: Click Here