Monday, December 17, 2007

Veg Out: Meju

After I heard a round of good things about Old City's new Korean BYOB, Meju, I was intrigued: No BBQ? Veg-possible? Grab a sixer of Korean beer and let's go.

I expected the small space to be packed on a weekend, but things didn't heat up until after our meal, when it got a little rowdier. The complimentary dishes of banchan set before us were a nice touch, and we quickly set out to taste and identify each one. There was the standard kimchee along with an assortment of different pickled vegetables. While we were playing around, giant stone bowls of sizzling Dolsot Bibimbap were set before us. Our server hastily removed the tiny plates and all attention turned to the smoking caverns of Meju's most popular offering. (My camera phone pictures were no good, but here is a similar pic)

The Bibimbap appeared to be overwhelming, but was really just a mound of never-ending white rice, and evenly divided sections of julienned vegetables (daikon, sprouts, cucumber, carrots) and a choice of protein. I chose tofu, as you may have guessed. They are meant to be mixed together and come with a small bowl of spicy sauce. The presentation here is paramount to the taste. It took awhile for the steaming dish to be at a comfortable enough temperature to dig into, and after a few bites I wasn't very impressed with the flavor. I found a few cubes of mushy tofu before I was caught in an under-seasoned rainbow of veggies that seemed to go on forever. I wasn't thrilled, but I did want to go purchase a big stone bowl immediately after.

I would have given the green tea or red bean ice creams a whirl, since I live for the prospect of exotic ice cream, but I was with a dessert critic who dissuaded me. We headed over to Doubleshots instead and split a brownie, a simple baked good that always delivers, even if it doesn't come in a sizzling stone bowl.

Meju, 213 Chestnut St., 215-238-9403

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