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Monday, February 22, 2010

Meatless Mondays: Getting Saucy at Riverside Korean Restaurant

"What's in this incredible sauce?" I innocently asked the waitress. In response, she threw her head back and cackled the way people do when they know something but have no intention of letting you in on the secret. Clearly, it was going to take more than a sweet smile to get this woman to talk, but more on that later.


The dish I was asking about was the Mae Un Du Bu Bok Um ($14.95) at Riverside Korean Restaurant – a tofu and vegetable stir fry that had me reeling from the first bite.


"Reeling?" you ask. Yes, if that's what you would call me clutching my heart and repeating the word "wow" over and over again. My husband ordered the Dolsot Bibim Bab ($15.95), a popular rice and vegetable entree that's served in a hot, stone bowl and topped with a fried egg at the last minute. His food was delicious, but it was the stir fry that had me threatening to storm the kitchen so that I might steal the recipe.

Mae Un Du Bu Bok Um dish from Riverside Korean Restaurant - photo by Courtney Tsitouris.

First of all, the food looked as beautiful as it tasted. A stack of perfectly julienned vegetables – pan-fried and obviously lovingly cared for -- wrapped around each other in a glistening, messy swirl of color. The tofu was so soft it looked more like melted cheese than a soy product.


And then there was that pool of sauce. The sauce whose recipe I tried to weasel out of the waitress, the sauce I'd probably eat on my breakfast cereal if I could. It entrenched the fried cabbage, long hot peppers, and vegetables with sweetness first and then heat.


People who write about food love to talk about umami, the mysterious fifth taste said to be found in many soy sauce related dishes. I've never been one to notice, but in this sauce, the savory sensation overwhelmed me in a lingering, almost haunting manner.

Banchan sides from Riverside Korean Restaurant - photo by Courtney Tsitouris.

I proved to be a particularly poor dining companion when the banchan arrived. The half dozen or so complimentary small bites were, as my husband tried to tell me, meant to be shared alongside the meal. But sharing was difficult when the sweet, honey potatoes melted so quickly in my mouth and the spicy kimchi was so finger-licking good. Each one, more visually sophisticated than the next became a carnival of flavor and a fun counterpoint to the main course.


After all of our plates were empty and our bellies were full, I thought I'd give it another go with the waitress. "So, this is a soy based sauce, right?" I asked her in a hopeful tone. "Yes," she said, "soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and some other ingredients." Her voice trailed off as she made way back to the kitchen. I guess that was going to have to do for now.


Riverside Korean Restaurant is at 512 Madison Avenue in Covington (map). Make reservations at (859) 291-1484.


'Meatless Mondays' is a new series on UrbanCincy that explores one of the recommendations of CIncinnati's Climate Protection Action Plan (aka Green Cincinnati Plan) - try to go meatless one day a week. UrbanCincy's 'Meatless Mondays' series is written and photographed by Courtney Tsitouris who is a cook, designer and author of www.epi-ventures.com, a blog about dining in and dining out in Cincinnati.

Riverside Korean on Urbanspoon

9 comments:

5chw4r7z said...

Two words that should never ever appear in the same post are, in no paticular order, unalphabtized, randomized, the two words are meat and less.

Randy Simes said...

Oh come on 5chw4r7z, you know that you could go just one day a week without meat. Breakfast is easy, then just look to Courtney for the rest of the recommendations here for lunch and dinner.

I'm betting that a lot of the sushi you've been rampaging over lately is meatless.

5chw4r7z said...

OK, but if you start beerless Friday, UrbanCincy is dead to me.

Randy Simes said...

I will have obviously fallen off my rocker if I start throwing out ideas like beerless anything.

Dale said...

I have stayed away from korean restaurants because the food sounds so foreign, but you made it something I will try because you have a good sense of taste. Still tofu is intimidating compared to a strip steak.

Dale

Courtney said...

Part of my attraction to ethnic food (such as Korean food) is its outstanding ability to deliver flavor. When and if you should decide to cut some meat out of your diet, exciting, flavorful food like this stir fry will help you along the way.

Thanks to Randy for letting me be a part of his blog, which is really evolving into an online magazine, or ezine, if you will.

I love the idea of collecting different Cincinnati perspectives and opinions and putting them into one place.

Randy Simes said...

Korean, Thai, and Vietnamese are probably my favorite types of ethnic food because of their great flavors...and almost always, they have terrific meatless options.

Jordan Moss said...

Might I make the recommendation you highlight your "meatless" articles again on Fridays in Cincinnati during Lent.

Could give ideas to certain religious populations that are quite numerous in this city that will be fasting from meat for the next couple of weeks.

Randy Simes said...

Jordan:

Thanks. That is something we definitely considered, but I decided to stick with the Monday format so that people didn't confuse the series with a Lent only thing.

Not only did I want to avoid any particular religious connection, but I also want people to know that this one day without meat each week idea has staying power. I imagine that if people are looking for meatless alternatives for Lent that they might find this series anyways.

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