Crisp, cool efficiency describes the interior design and the table service for a Saturday lunch at Seoul Garden. The Korean restaurant is located in a newer strip mall, just off Nolensville Road and Edmondson Pike. The English speaking server seems a little surprised when the wife asks for a vegetarian recommendation. Not that vegetarians don’t have much to choose from here: with 69 items on the wide-ranging menu there are plenty of veggie choices, it just seems like he is not often asked for a recommendation. He provides a couple of terse suggestions, takes our order and we move on to watching other people eat. And it does look good. Barbecue beef is a specialty in Korea and at the top of the entrée menu at Seoul Garden. Most folks are sampling one variety or another. The banchan arrive quickly enough to keep us from snooping, and soon the Veggie Eater is tossing a slice of boiled egg on the floor due to uncooperative chopsticks. Realizing the chopsticks can’t really be blamed we switch to forks. Those banchan are a treat. They’re served as part of the meal to accompany the entrée. Like most Americans we can’t help but snack on the strong kimchi cabbage, those delicious soy and tea soaked eggs, tender chili tofu, and tart vinegar seaweed. We save as much as we can for the meal, but the server will offer to replenish the dishes if you run out.
We don’t know much about Korean food. The menu offers short English descriptions and glancing at the other tables helps us make decisions. All of the entrees are artfully presented on the plate or in the case of my order the bowl. The Gal Bi Dolsot Bi Bim Bob comes in a sizzling hot stone pot. Rice is layered with chopped veggies: purple onion, and cabbage. An egg over easy tops it all. It looks pretty, but the beef is rather meager. It tastes good, but the quality doesn’t match the heavenly Korean beef I’ve had in the past. Suddenly a woman appears at the table with a heaping bowl of marinated beef rib. She apologizes profusely and says I received the wrong beef. The addition is certainly an improvement: tender, medium rare and packed with juicy flavor. The whole dish perks up considerably.
There is plenty of tofu on the menu, a variety of dumpling dishes, and buckwheat noodles. Barbecue includes beef ribs, short ribs, sirloin, as well as marinated beef, pork and chicken. Interesting seafood includes codfish milt soup, and stir-fried octopus. We’re already considering Soon Dae Guk (Korean sausage soup) and the Jap Chae (sweet potato noodles with veggies and beef) for a return visit.
Veggie Eater: This is some of the better Asian food I've had in Nashville. I opted for the Bi Bim Myun Special, as I am always a sucker for noodles. This is a room temperature dish with a hint of chili heat. The thin noodles are dressed up with Daikon radish, a variety of cabbages, carrots, and scallions. It is an enormous serving and I happily consumed it again for lunch. I loved both of the tofu banchan offerings; one was a fairly straightforward marinated variety, the other was some sort of tofu skin version; both were delicious. The eggs, other than being shot across the room in my attempt to use chopsticks, were also very tasty. I was surprised at how many of the dishes incorporated either boiled or fried eggs.
Meat Eater: Clean, cold rice tea accompanies the check. It’s a nice way to end a meal. Nashville Restaurants reader Starbucks girl has been trying to get us to try Seoul Garden for some time now. We thank her for the good suggestion. We paid $30 with tax and tip.