Sunday, February 14, 2010

At Chung Dam Dong Restaurant

Image by xoundbox via Flickr
Broad Avenue is the main street in Palisades Park, home to dozens of Korean restaurants and coffee shops.

If you love to see your meal cooked on the table at a Korean restaurant and if you're a big fan of octopus and squid in a seriously spicy sauce, head over to Chung Dam Dong in Palisades Park.

We had dinner there last night after negotiating with the waitress and the kitchen over what we wanted in our seafood stir fry instead of those invertebrates, which I love but which my wife and son abhor. 

The meal came with eight panchan, or side dishes, including a delightful salad of greens, two kinds of terrific kimchi, stewed radish and fish, steamed egg, and potato salad with mayo and raisins. Another was scallion, green pepper, carrot and Spam on a toothpick, battered and fried.

So we agreed on pork and shell- and head-on shrimp in our stir fry, which was cooked with vegetables and a half-dozen mussels in the kitchen and brought to our table in a wok that was placed over a gas grill to keep it bubbling. 

The mussels never opened, so I didn't eat them. A stone bowl of coarse, bland bean curd -- or was it tofu? -- was the perfect counterpoint to this spicy dish.

After we put a serious dent in the entree and several dishes of salad and kimchi, which were replenished when empty, the waitress brought out fresh bean sprouts and a medium-size bowl of steamed white rice and dumped them into the wok, stirring them into the remaining sauce and flattening the rice against the bottom and sides of the blackened wok -- for sort of a Korean paella. We tried, but couldn't finish the rice.

I don't know the name of this entree, but you can find it on the menu by its lofty price -- $42.99. The waitress told us it served only two and urged us to order soup, in addition to the fried vegetable dumplings we wanted ($11.99). We declined. 

This is one restaurant where the quality of the "free side dishes" make some of the pricier entrees palatable. The only beer available is Coors Light, and a small bottle of soju is about $12.

Chung Dam Dong also offers Korean barbecue, but I didn't pay too much attention to those selections, because we have long ago decided to buy our own free-range, grass-fed Australian beef and prepare barbecue at home, after consuming so much "mystery meat" at restaurants.

You'll find this second-floor restaurant in the same building on Broad Avenue that houses So Gong Dong, our favorite soft-tofu place. At the top of the stairs, you turn right for tofu stews, left for spicy stir fries and great side dishes.

Chung Dam Dong Restaurant, 118 Broad Ave.,
Palisades Park, 201-313-8900. No Web site. 

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