The BF and I had the most bizarre meal in years at a new Korean restaurant in Palisades Park, New Jersey. The name of the place I believe is Girodi, but I lost the card. Don’t fret about it since I wouldn’t actually recommend it. It is a good one for your places to avoid list.
We decided to try this new place because it looked very spacious compared to the more cramped, raucous place down the road we’ve been to before. We were intrigued when the very sweet waiter told us there was not English menu yet and suggested the set menu, normally $22.99 per person, but as an opening special it was $20.00 per person with our choice of main course. We chose the beef bulgogi to be “safe” and said, “Surprise us.” Famous last words…
I tried to photograph the whole meal on my phone, but it turned out I missed a few dishes. Sorry…
He immediately brought us each a salad (not pictured)-Very wet lettuce with a smidgen of dressing - forgettable. Then he brought a clear, cold radish soup with ice cubes and a sesame porridge (warm). They were odd, but we were going with the flow. Next was a sizzle platter of king oyster mushroom stems with skewers of gingko nuts and skewers of cooked garlic on a bed of onions. All flavorful, but not quite cooked enough. Then he brought a whole (not gutted, but thankfully scaled), crispy, fried fish which was tasty although the tiny bones were a challenge. With this he brought this colorful platter of rubbery, wheat pancakes piled with three pine nuts in between each layer, surrounded by a julienne of:cold cooked egg whites, cold egg yolks, raw red and green peppers, raw carrots, pickled burdock root and sautéed Chinese mushrooms and shredded overcooked beef. The idea was to roll it all in the pancake and dip it in a soy dipping sauce and a bean paste sauce. It looked great and was fun to eat, but the beef was dry as dust!
Then he bought assorted fried items that I think are called panjun: savory egg battered Korean “pancakes”: beef stuffed yellow peppers, layers of crab stick with scallions in egg batter, fried battered fish.
Next up was a spicy seafood stew in a little hot pot. I order this dish a lot. Unfortunately their version was the weakest I’d ever had. Very vinegary and not very spicy, but we still ate it.
Then came the most bizarre dish of the night, the seafood with bean sprouts in a chili sauce. Not alarming until I ate this crazy sea creature I’d never seen before. Picture an old shriveled gray testicle (sorry, there is no other suitable image) that had perhaps been fossilized to the point of making a impenetrable shell on the outside, but still squooshy enough to feel lots of slimy goo on the inside with a hard bit floating around inside. I put it in my mouth to try and bite it, but couldn’t. It had the strangest consistency and I was a bit scared to really chomp down. I took it out of my mouth and squeezed it and it squirted me in the face. I was baffled and a little grossed out. I called the waiter over, who looked it up on the internet and came back with warty sea squirt. I was thoroughly grossed out. I love food, but have always had an iffy relationship with slimy, squishy foods, especially ones that squirt at me.
Watery seas squirts are apparently a rare delicacy in Korea, but easily available here to the point of being a nuisance at times in our water ways. I had never seen or tasted anything like it I can’t say eaten because I could not eat it. The BF ate one, but I was done after that. You really had to grow up on it. I tried to take a close-up shot, but that was not possible with my phone. I should have taken them home to put in a specimen jar because we have not stopped talking about it. I was glad the menu was not in English as the name would certainly have put me off trying them.
Then he brought the banchan, which are the little side dishes traditionally served with Korean meals.
- Skewered shrimp (dry, overcooked)
- BBQ Fish (not sure what kind, but edible)
- Squid with chili sauce (overcooked, but ok)
- Oysters in chili sauce (Normally, I eat oysters, but after the warty sea squirts I couldn’t.)
- Kim chee (preserved spicy cabbage)
- Beef skewers (cooked to death- leathery)
- Fresh Balloon flower root (looked like fresh ginger, tasted like chewy, unsweetened cough medicine root) with honey to dip it in (WHY?)
- Mysterious pickled leaves (I did ask about this, but it was apparently from Korean with no US translation other than “herb”
- Chili pickled crabs (they were kind of raw and tasteless)
- Candied, straw-like preserved fish (not pictured and unpleasant. I am usually a fan of candied fish.)
Next, they finally brought the rice and the beef bulgogi (not pictured). You can imagine a dark pile of beef that had cooked earlier (possibly days earlier) and then left somewhere to crust up. I’ve had this dish all over the world and it’s usually varying stages of good to great. This looked like it had been forgotten somewhere and then remembered and popped stuck back in the oven to reheat. Tough as nails!!! The rice was lukewarm and just not good. How does on screw up rice in an Asian restaurant? They brought a nice variety of greens to wrap the bulgogi in: steamed cabbage, red leaf lettuce, Korean perilla leaves (they look like shiso, but have a different flavor) and chrysanthemum leaves.
We ate most of the food, but for all the variety and quantity, it was just not tasty, almost bland. It was very interesting and I sent the hostess several times to look up what we were eating, but I found myself longing for the places down the street with better, fresher and certainly tastier food.
Throughout the meal the young staff was incredibly attentive and very helpful at trying to explain what everything was. This is not usually the case down the street so we really appreciated that.
We asked for the check and they brought dessert (not pictured): Korean rice cakes: one with red bean paste inside and one with some sort of bean dust on the outside. Not my cup of tea, but the BF liked them. And a iced rice soup and another porridge that had some cinnamon notes. It certainly was an adventure of a meal and we laughed a lot, but not one I need to repeat!