Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Worth Repeating: Shin Chon Garden's Korean Barbecue Makes One Of Our Favorite Meals

Korean Barbecue At Shin Chon Garden
I have written so much about Shin Chon Garden's barbecue that I posted step-by-step instructions for enjoying the thin-sliced pork and beef, but this is the ultimate "Worth Repeating" post because we keep coming back for more.

Barbecue with Korean experts.  Barbecue on a double-date with newbies.  Barbecue with a table of parents and kids who alternate between eating and walking around the table.

Shin Chon Garden in Ellicott City has provided many different nights of fun, and they all come from the grills built into most tables.  I already posted the 2012 step-by-step instructions so that any table of four can order and enjoy pork belly or beef (the thin-cut bulgogi or the rib-meat kalbi).  You'll get the table filled with panchan, the free side dishes of vegetable, pickle and other dishes that make Korean barbecue such a riot of flavors.

Panchan - the small side dishes
Those flavors are my big argument today.  We go back to Shin Chon because the food is so fresh and so full of variation -- the slightly-charred chew of the thin-cut meat, the fresh crunch of sprouts and lettuce, the spicy tang of kimchi and other pickled vegetables, the smooth creaminess of the potato salad panchan.  And don't forget the steamed egg -- a piping hot, steamed, scrambled egg that comes along with the barbecue and provides a warm, rich contrast.

The big tables make for fun evenings.  It's social to share the dishes, to serve each other meat as it cooks, to compare notes on new panchan.  We have had terrific times eating, talking and having either a Korean beer or unfiltered wine called makkoli.

The best part is that you control everything.  Shin Chon lays all this food out on your table, and you decide what you want to eat.  Sample everything.  Make the lettuce rolls with rice, shredded greens, meat and spicy sauce.  Pair up the dishes that you enjoy.  Pass on the handful that aren't your favorites.

That control is why I think Korean barbecue is so welcoming to new people.  Meat, vegetables, pickles and rice are such American standards that I think most people can find ways to eat themselves happy at Shin Chon.  Then when you're experienced, you can try variations like the noodle dish chapchae or regal your vegan friends with vegetarian bi bim bop.  I enjoy many other Korean restaurants on Rte 40, but Shin Chon has called us back again and again.

This is part of a Worth Repeating series highlighting dishes and places that you should hear about even though they aren't new.  I'm suggesting sandwiches, Chinese, ground chuck and other items that have been HowChow favorites for years.

Seriously, there is no restaurant in Howard County that we enjoy more than Shin Chon.  Meals are surprisingly reasonable when you realize that we rarely order appetizers or dessert.  The price for the barbecue includes all the panchan, and we have long social meals where we leave stuffed but not weighted down.  It's a bit of lean meat and a ton of vegetables.  If you're thinking about Korean, definitely check out the recent step-by-step post about Lighthouse Garden or scan all the posts about Korean food.


Trip Klaus said...

Haven't been yet, compared to Honey Pig...what are the advantages/disadvantages?

Anonymous said...

I love KBBQ and think Shin Chon is slightly better than Honey Pig. Prices at Honey Pig has gone up tremendously over the years as they have expanded and they become more popular.

Two others worth mentioning are Kogiya in Annandale and Iron Age in Rockville. Both aren't close to HoCo, but offer an AYCE option for less than $30 which is a pretty good deal. I rank Kogiya as the best in the DMV as far as quality, experience, and variety.

SC said...

I still prefer Honeypig to Shin Chon if I just want KBBQ a la carte, and don't mind smoke and the industrial atmosphere. Shin Chon is definitely fancier and pricier by around ~$5-$10 depending on what you order.

As for taste, I like Honeypig's salad and dipping sauce WAYYYY more than any other KBBQ place I've been to, including Iron Age, and a couple others out in Annandale. I went to eat Honeypig with my college-aged sister just a few days ago, and we agreed that Honeypig is better if you know you just want certain things (like pork belly and bulgogi in our case) versus the combos at Shin Chon that don't have it. Also, I think the bulgogi at Honeypig is superior in taste. Service at Shin Chon is probably better, but you get what you pay for at Honeypig.

I didn't like Iron Age when I went there when it just opened. The quality of meats and banchan were below average, and MoCo people could just drive 20-30 minutes into Virginia for much better KBBQ. That being said, it might have improved in the last year or so.

Anonymous said...

I would definitely have to agree that Honey Pig is the spot to go in HoCo. The only down side is that it has grown in popularity (especially with the college aged crowd). I am all for people expanding and trying new cuisine, it just makes it difficult to enjoy the experience when the place is packed. I rarely go on the weekend or between 6-9 pm when it tends to be busiest (they are open 24/7 which is key). The service, as previously stated, is really hit or miss. Some are very kind and accommodating while others tend to be rushed and unfriendly. The Ttukbaegi gyeranjjim (steamed egg) and spicy pork belly are what keep me coming back!