I already posted about Chinese and Indian food, but Howard County offers a half world of Asian restaurants that range from Korea down through Vietnam.
These are casual restaurants that I love because I can't cook this stuff -- bulgogi, tom yum soup, sushi rolls, etc. Most are reasonably priced, and all have English menus so you can explore all you want. If you're new to these cuisines, these are great places to start. If you're experienced, they're all good enough to be worth a drive. For some reason, the Asian spots are clustered in the center of the county -- Korean restaurants along Rte 40 in Ellicott City and much of the rest in Columbia.
- To me, the best Korean restaurants are Shin Chon Garden and Bethany Seafood Retaurant. The renovated Shin Chon offers a pretty location, but both places on Rte 40 offer Korean barbeque, stews and the panchan that make a Korean dinner such fun. For takeout, check out the Lotte supermarket right off Rte 29. (I'm sure there are others in Ellicott City. I also like Mirocjo, which is across the parking lot from Bethany Seafood.)
- The best Thai restaurants in Howard County are among the best restaurants around. To me, nothing around beats Bangkok Delight, which delivers absolutely authentic cuisine beautifully balancing hot peppers and spices. Great curries. Delicious drunken noodles. It's a cute place, perfectly nice for a date or taking out visitors. Other people love Bangkok Garden in Columbia and Thai Aroma in Ellicott City.
- The best sushi in Howard County comes from Sushi Sono or Sushi King. Although the two Columbia restaurants aren't jointly owned anymore, they each specialize in unique rolls that make them worth the trip. Try the standard Japanese menu, if you must. But go for the rolls -- like Sushi King's "eastern shore" or "pretty in red" or Sushi Sono's "hurricane eye" -- even though they can be a pricey night. (Update: I also recommend Hanamura in Columbia, which serves fresh, imaginative rolls -- including many at lower prices that the Sushi K's. So you can try more variety and leave with a smaller bill. Get the mochi ice cream.)
- My favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Howard County is An Loi Pho in Columbia. Great pho, and the fun of both salted plum sodas and Vietnamese coffee. I admit it's a pretty bare spot. If you want something slightly more decorated, go up the block to Pho Dat Thanh, which also has a slightly broader menu as well.
I'm still enjoying the search for new places. It's hard sometimes because I always know that the places above are good. But I'll get out because of recommendations like Chris lauding the sushi at Hanamura in Columbia ("better than Sushi King") and Dan talking up the Little Spice Thai restaurant near Arundel Mills in Hanover ("better than Bangkok Delight").
This is part of the "What I Learned" series of posts. They're organized in rings. See below to continue on the ring about different cuisines. Or click to switch to the posts about shopping in Howard County or posts about areas and ideas.
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