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Monday, January 3, 2011

Restaurant Review: Eating at Edo, Norwalk, CT

Today was the first day in a long time that things have been quiet in the Bryant-Smith household. Since Thanksgiving, really, things have been running flat out, with additional programs at church for Advent, then having house guests for the entire week between Christmas and New Year's. Yesterday, when I was making the announcements at church, I realized that the office was going to be closed today, which is a clear sign of just how abuzz my brain has been in recent weeks.

Anyhow, with today being a day off, Kimberly and I went out to lunch at our favorite Japanese/Korean restaurant, Edo, at 666 Main Ave. in Norwalk, in an easily-missed strip mall, just north of Walmart and south of Borders.

When I was in college at Virginia Commonwealth University, I discovered Korean food at a restaurant in the 900 block of Grace Street, just down the street from two of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants, "Saigon," and the now-defunct "Asian Gourmet" which was originally an icecream parlor that was bought by Tien "Timmy" Vu and his wife and turned into quite a respectable place to get Vietnamese style teriyaki sandwiches. The Korean restaurant was several steps down to a basement with an unimpressive sign that simply said "Korean Restaurant." That restaurant seems to have closed but, for those of you in the Richmond area, there appears to be a similar one in the same block, called "Mama's Kitchen," possibly run by the same folks.

At that Korean restaurant on Grace Street, I fell in love with Kimchi Jigae, a hot and spicy soup with pork, kimchi (spicy pickled cabbage) and other vegetables, served in a heated stone bowl. What I didn't learn about there were the ponchon (side dishes) traditionally served with Korean meals. For that bit of knowledge, I had to move to New Jersey and the many Korean restaurants in Fort Lee.

But back to today's lunch. Kimberly and I have been eating at Edo since one of my deacons, Joseph Deruvo Jr., recommended the place to us shortly after we moved to Norwalk. Edo, named after the ancient name for Tokyo, features a mix of Japanese and Korean food, but the Korean is the reason Kimberly and I go there. Walking into the restaurant is a warm and welcoming experience, with wood paneling and bamboo beams. Cloth banners hang as accents.

The lunch menu leans toward Japanese bento boxes, with sushi, sashima, tempura, and teriyaki, but Kimberly and I typically ignore these and head straight for the pages of Korean food. Each time I eat at Edo, I disappoint myself by ordering the same thing: jaeyook kimchi gobdol, spicy pork and kimchi with greens, seaweed, sprouts, and other vegetables, served with rice in a heated stone bowl. The magic of the gobdol is that the food continues to cook in it and the rice browns up and caramelizes into a layer of crunchy goodness.

First, though, the ponchon arrive. Today was kimchi, bean sprouts, pickled daikon, lightly pickled cucumber slices and some quickly sauteed leafy greens (napa cabbage?), along with bowls of miso soup. The ponchon are always a great beginning and it is always part of the fun to see what arrives at the table. Frequently, at Edo, there's an apple salad and, sometimes, there's sliced rice cake with barbecue sauce. At other restaurants, I've enjoyed whole broiled or fried fish, sweet black beans, dried anchovies, potato salad, fish cakes and scallion pancakes.

When the entrees arrived, Kimberly was immediately glad for the ponchon vegetables, as her mandoo gui (dumpling soup) had plenty of beef in it, but no vegetables to speak of and, before the meal was done, she had requested additional kimchi. She finished the meal feeling that she had made a mistake ordering it and I ended up sampling a bit of what was left in her bowl, which was good, but definitely lacked the variety that would have improved the soup quite a lot.

My gobdol was -- not surprisingly -- everything I had hoped it would be. The pork was porky, the kimchi (though not particularly spicy today) was flavorful, the vegetables tasty, the barbecue sauce (served on the side in a plastic squeeze bottle) was zingy, and the rice was so good that I chiseled the last of it off the bowl, where it had cooked on.

The only drawbacks to Edo are the 1980s pop music that is piped through the house speakers and the service. While Barry Manilow and Air Supply take me back to my glory days in high school, I rather enjoy it when the music matches what I'm eating and I'm sure it can't be that hard to get Japanese or Korean CDs. The service is never really thorough but is always cheerful and, when you can get your server's attention to ask for what you need, is always prompt.

Kimberly and I will, of course, be going back. I'll see if I can bring myself to order something other than one of the gobdol dishes and I'm certain that Kimberly will be making a different entree selection.

1 comment:

mamasama said...

So happy that you are enjoying one of our favorite spots! It sounds like you are enjoying it much more often then we are! My favorites are Unagidon (not Korean) chap che, bulgoki and of course gob dol. Joseph sticks with the sushi. one day we will have to do it together-
Lini