Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What Do You Order At Honey Pig? Or Shin Chon?

I still haven't been to Honey Pig 2 in Ellicott City, but AGussman posted a question that I thought should be answered before I get to try Ellicott City's newest Korean BBQ:  "This sounds like a cool place, but I'm completely unfamiliar with Korean BBQ.  Does anyone have recommendations what to try?"

Personally, I have some recommendations.  As I said in a Shin Chon Garden post, we tend to order either bulgogi or kalbi and the dolset bi bim bop.  That's barbecued meat and a stone bowl of mixed rice, vegetables and a little meat.  If we can work up a group, we order the feast where you get a couple meats to grill yourself and augment with that bi bim bop.  Either way, you get a table full of panchan -- the little bowls of vegetables, tofu, shredded meat, and other side dishes that make Korean so spectacular.

But I'm no expert on Korean food.  Yelp seems full of young people who grew up with Korean cuisine, and I have loved reviews like AK J's live lobster sashimi post about Bethany Seafood Restaurant.  I'd love if anyone wants to answer AGussman's question in the comments.  What do you think makes a good introduction to Korean food?  What do people miss when they stick to the tried and true?  Anything special at Honey Pig?  Please comment below.

(Update I: I inspired myself to go to Honey Pig.  I'll post later, but I my big discovery is that this is a limited menu.  It's great, but you can't get the dolset bi bim bop that I mentioned above.  My advice for a beginner at Honey Pig is to order a thin-sliced pork belly and the bulgogi.  As Lee says in the comments, you can order anything.  You pick a meat.  They grill it in front of you.  You can't go wrong.  I'm just starting with basics.  I'll add more later.)

(Update II: Check out the photos and post on This Is Gonna Be Good.  Spectacular photos.  These folks aren't running around my little cell phone camera.)

(Update III: My full review of Honey Pig is now up.)

My real advice is that you ask for help.  Shin Chon Garden has always been wonderful to us.  The first few times, I asked for help knowing when the meat was grilled, and the waitresses showed us exactly what to do.  I pointed out the rice noodle wrappers, and the manager explained them.  You might hit a few people with limited English, but you're just as likely to find a waiter who grew up in Howard County and has been explaining Korean food to non-Koreans for 20 years like the guy who explained the great fried chicken at Rainpia.  If you like vegetables, meat and pickles -- and especially if you like some spice, then you could happily eat for years in Korean restaurants.


Work in progress said...

I would say order the "samgyupsal". Samgyupsal is sliced pork bellies: unseasoned, uncured bacon. Cooked correctly, samgyupsal is tender and meaty with just a slight hint of char on the outside. I've heard mixed reviews about honey pig and have yet to go myself, so I can't speak with any authority about what their best dishes are.

mira said...

Agree with Kevin, the samgyupsal is the best at Honey Pig. Especially with all the kimchi they put in the grill. The beef brisket is also really good. In my opinion the bulgogi isn't very good at Honey Pig but the spicy cholpan dishes are. Plus they'll stirfry rice and veggies in it at the end!

DAS said...

At Shin Chon I always go with 1-2 other people and we almost always order the BBQ. I'm sad to say we've never had a server there who could explain what we were supposed to do, si I've searched online and muddled through. At best I've had the server indicate with his/her hands that we were supposed to move the meat around on the grill to cook it. Yeah, okay, but what do we do afterwards? You must have better luck than I do.

EastCoastMatt said...

yes. when you have pig in the name of the restaurant, go for the pork dishes. the other meats are somewhat mediocre.

I also like the spicy pork. And they also have a spicy pork mixed with seafood (baby octopus/squid) which is nice as well. with the spicy ones, you can also get them to put rice on the grill towards the end. they mix the rice and spread it around - making it almost like a dol-sot bi-bim bop as a nice crust forms on the bottom.

and with service in this restaurant, don't wait to be served/don't wait for someone to come by with water/don't wait for your waiter/waitress to notice things and get things for you. Don't be afraid to ask, or even call out across the room (that's actually kinda normal with korean restaurants).

little audrey said...

We've been to Honey Pig twice now and are working our way thru the menu. We've had the $10 beef rib with cold noodle soup, the $10 pork rib with cold noodle soup, and the $13 spicy octopus/pork belly stir fry.I think HP is ideal for people unfamiliar with Korean because flavorings are on the mild side (compared with the Hanoori food court; I haven't been to Shin Chon) and the staff who cook your food are very friendly and willing to help with questions about what something is or what to dip it in (many don't speak much English though, so you may do a lot of pointng and gesturing). And of course they're open all night, exc. Sunday they close 2 am. Downsides, don't go here if you expect 10-alarm spicy or mountains of food, but I think portions are just right, leaving room for Tutti Frutti :) I preferred the pork to the beef. The stirfry octopus was good but they didn't give us any rice.

Anonymous said...

I went to Ellicott City HP this past weekend. "Samgyupsal", pork belly and cheaper prices are two things HP is known for in VA. There are two different types of pork bellies, thinly sliced and the thicker. Personal preference which one you prefer. Dip them and then wrap them.

Definitely, get the "cholpon", spicy stir fry, if you like spicy. Eat about half and then ask the wait staff to stir fry some rice in the remaining.

Flavors are milder then other Korean places, but ok. I would not recommend the "Soondooboo", soft tofu stew, flavor was lacking. The wait staff will do all the cooking, so all you have to do is just eat.

Lee Biars said...

I really enjoyed myself at Honey Pig- it's not much different than most of my Korean restaurant experiences, with the notable exception of the decor which is very modern and energetic.

In terms of what to order, I always (and I do mean always) order Kalbi (sometimes spelled Galbi), which is essentially a crosscut of the beef rib. Most of the fat cooks off on the grill which creates a char, and it really goes well over rice with grilled garlic and hot peppers (both offered at most Korean places).

Besides that I would say order your preference in food. You like pork? Get pork (spicy pork belly was very good). Like squid? get squid. Once you get past the little sides they bring when you first sit down (all were good at Honey Pig), Korean is fairly straight forward.

I generally avoid the noodle dishes because I think the Vietnamese do noodles and broth much better, and will usually go in the direction of pho if I'm in that kind of mood. Not that Korean noodle dishes aren't good, they just don't grab me as much as the grilled meat over rice.

Hope this helps!

Chris said...

I always go for the ribs! Kalbi is so yummy and simple but I always use it to judge the restaurant. I would also try the spicy pork belly as another way to judge it. Honey Pig stacks up well, especially in price.

I like how they cooked the garlic, peppers and kimchi on the grill at Honey Pig. They do severely skimp out on the side dishes though.

Honey Pig has the most interesting Korean restaurant atmosphere. I did note that some of the waitresses got extremely busy and even got mad when I asked for a refill for my water. The prices were great though. I can't believe how cheap it is, although I can cook it much cheaper at home.

Work in progress said...

About what Matthew said: he's right on. Good service in Korean restaurants is different than what you would expect in an American restaurant. In most restaurants, you'd probably gauge good service on how attentive your server is without you having to ask. Did they brink you refills before you finished your drink? Did they stop by to check how your meal is soon after it's been delivered to your table? In Korean restaurants, the phrase you should learn is "YUH-GI-YO!" (not pronounced like the kid's cartoon). This roughly translates into "OVER HERE!", but in a polite way. Korean people have been hiding this secret passphrase from you for years, hoping to hog all the good service to themselves. This is pretty much how you get your server's attention. Here's a scenario using this word:

Server runs over
Server: Yeh (more or less means yes)
You: Please bring me more of this you hold up an empty plate of side dish that you really liked
Server: Yeh
Server brings you more of that delicious bean looking thing

You've just gotten good service. Like Matthew said, you need to ask for what you want. Don't be afraid to yell. Also note that Korean servers don't expect a lot of tip from older generations of Korean customers (gratuity is not customary in Korea). So go above and beyond with your tip, and you might not have to yell quite as loudly for service on subsequent visits.

1000yregg said...

Thanks for the compliments on the Honey Pig pics. My first time using a new camera for food pics.