Seoul, Beacon Hill, Boston

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Seoul is the former Ma Soba, with a new name, the same owners, and a new cook. They have an extensive traditional Korean menu is and there is a lot of variety to choose from. Honestly, the Korean restaurants in Boston are typically alright but we’ve been waiting to try one that is truly exceptional and not in NYC or LA. We were pleasantly surprised by Seoul.

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They have a decent wine and beer selection, a sizable wine selection, as well as sakes and two soju. My friends and I tried the most popular unflavored soju. It was light, crisp, refreshing and did not strongly taste of alcohol for a 38 proof beverage.

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Teokkbukki

We got the little rice cakes with seafood extra spicy but I guess the Korean version of extra spicy is much less spicy that the Southeast Asian kind. Despite the mild disappointment about the spiciness, the teokkbukki were pleasantly chewy and the seafood was tender.

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Beef bibimbap with beef bulgolgi

The beef bibimbap was very good. The crispy rice crust was delicious when you mixed everything together. What was interesting is that they use electric bimbimbap bowls. We had never seen them before and were used to heated traditional stone bowls. The beef bibimbap didn’t give you enough meat but we just mixed in some of our beef bulgolgi in instead. The beef bulgolgi was good. The meat was very tasty.

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LA kalbi Korean BBQ

We were torn on whether to order tradional kalbi or LA kalbi. Interestingly enough, the LA Kalbi and so called ‘traditional Korean Kalbi’ look quite different due to the way it is cut. Korean Kalbi is cut in segments along side the rib bone shapes and it is thicker. LA Kalbi is cut through the rib bone, usually displaying three rib bone eyes. It is also thinner, hence easier to marinate and quicker to cook on a BBQ grill. The only thing is that Seoul doesn’t have BBQ tables for you to cook on, so they give you your meat already cooked on a sizzling plate. The meat was traditionally marinated which kept the meat nice and tender. It was served on a bed of charred onions, with a carrot, broccoli and tofu garnish.

They gave us four banchan- a refreshing and not super-spicy or sour cabbage Kimchi, bean sprouts, spinach salad, and assorted pickled vegetables.

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Spicy pork, kimchi, tofu stir fry

I usually don’t love tofu. There I said it. However, tofu stir-fried with protein is probably my favorite way to eat it. I really enjoyed this dish. The sour tangy kimchi mixed with the spicy pork and smooth tofu was great over white rice. I would definitely get this dish again.

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Seoul truly surprised us by serving nicely priced, excellent and authentic Korean food. It truly puts all the other Korean restaurants in Allston and Cambridge to shame. We have always been disappointed with Boston’s Korean food until now. If you are looking for a nice home-cooked-style Korean meal in Boston without the unreasonable price tag, this is the place.

Seoul
Beacon Hill area
156 Cambridge Street
Boston, MA 02114

Seoul on Urbanspoon

Akai Ryu, Cambridge- A First Look

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Akai Ryu has been open for almost two weeks now. This new shabu shabu and sushi restaurant is located on the second floor next to the 24 hour Walgreen’s in Porter Square. They do not have their liquor license yet but aim to obtain one soon.

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The decor is modern, stylish and lounge-like. Akai Ryu is very spacious. Many of the larger tables overlook Porter Square and they have a large area that would be good for private parties. I really like that they have a conveyor belt sushi track but it was not being used when we stopped in for dinner.
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We decided order a la carte because we don’t usually each the noodles or rice that come with the combination sets. For broths, we wanted to try the herbal and spicy Schezuan flavors. The spicy Schezuan broth was spicy but didn’t really have much mala, or numbing heat, because there were very few mala peppers added. The herbal broth also need more herbs, there wasn’t many dried herbs floating in the other half of the pot other than chicken stock, perhaps less than a small handful. Both my dining companion and I were very surprised to see how much meat you receive, but at nearly half more in price than other shabu places that we frequent, it was a given that we would either be pleased or annoyed. Fortunately we were pleased. We tried the rib eye, sirloin, chicken, beef tongue, taro and baby bok choy. The meats were all good quality. The only problem is that the chicken was not properly frozen before slicing so that when we cooked it, it made a mess then stuck to the sides of the shabu pot, utensils and metal serving tongs. The other thing that I would have liked is that the beef tongue be sliced not lengthwise, as it makes it harder to cook the meat and eat it.

Service was friendly and many of the servers are young, in their early twenties. We had a young lady named Halle who was very attentive and nice. Hopefully the kitchen will improve the quantity of dry herbal additions to their broth and correct the lack of freezing chicken before slicing it. Akai Ryu is very new and shows promise. We will be back to try the sushi and have a few drinks in the future.

Akai Ryu Sushi & Shabu
Porter Square
822 Somerville Ave, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02140

Akai Ryu Shabu and Sushi on Urbanspoon

Kirkland Tap & Trotter, Somerville- Dinner

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Kirkland Tap & Trotter has been on my list of new places to try for the past year. I’ve been meaning to go to but haven’t had a chance to stop in until now. This new American style restaurant is supposed to be a more casual version of Craigie on Main, with an emphasis on simple, perfect food that you can eat daily.

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It’s loud, with a lively bar scene, people chatting and knocking back drinks while they play fun, funky classic music in the background. They have a decent sized bar area with a fair amount of standing room.

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The decor is really great. The restaurant feels casual, with open brick and beams, mismatched chairs, vintage signs and specials written on chalkboards. There are no table cloths, and the barstools are simple. There’s an open kitchen, which looks out onto the bar area and dining room. There’s a communal table with views of the kitchen and vice versa. You can come here for a drink and some bar snacks and be satisfied, or you can come with a group of friends, and gorge like kings.

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The second room is much quieter and an ideal place if you want to chat with your dining companions and hear them well.

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Kirkland has a strong bar program. They also have a secret underground beer list, which is full of hard to source beers. I’ve personally got my eye on the Cantillion lambic as a must try for next time.The wine selection is excellent and manageable.  The beer selection is dominated by smaller craft breweries, which I think is wonderful. They have about 8-10 beers on draft and a much larger number of bottles. Their cocktail list focuses on lesser used liqueurs, with most or all of their drinks being creative originals.  The bartenders and servers are all knowledgeable about the drink list and can point you in the right direction if you aren’t sure what to drink.

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Beer Battered Softshell Crab pickled ramp tartar sauce $16

I won’t deny that I am a softshell crab fiend. Since they’re in season now, there’s no reason not to get this appetizer given the fact it turned out to be very delicious. The beer batter crust has a nice crunch and is not too heavy. The crab isn’t very big but it is freshly made.

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Green Chile Chicken Wings cotija cheese, cilantro, pepitas  $14

These chicken wings are like a Mexican version of Parmesan garlic wings with a healthy kick from the green chile. They can be messy but they are worth every sloppy tender bite.

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Burger and Beer Special $16
Grass-fed Cheeseburger kimchee Russian dressing, emmantaler (beer not pictured)

We originally got the KT&T email newsletter announcing their new burger and beer special would start on Sunday, June 22nd. The special was what drew us in to come check it out. That and watching the World Cup of course. You don’t get to pick your beer however, it’s already chosen ahead of time. This Sunday, it was High and Mighty’s Beer O Gods.

The burger is made of grass-fed beef. It has an earthy, mild funk to it that tastes completely unique and pleasing. The seasoning is just right and the loosely packed texture of the patty makes it succulent and tender. The kimchee Russian dressing didn’t have much kimchee flavor but had plenty of Russian dressing taste instead. The Emmanthaler cheese is tasty and lightly melted. The house-made pickles and mace ketchup are pretty much successful Craigie copycats along the way. The burger at Kirkland similar in many ways, yet identical in others to Craigie on Main’s version. Best part is no reservation is required and no fighting for a bar seat just to have one of the 18 available for the evening!

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Sirloin Tip Brochette grilled avocado $32

This was delicious. The warm grilled rich avocado went well with the cilantro salsa verde and grilled medium rare beef. My dining companion wanted to eat my half too but couldn’t. The only issue we could have with this entree is that the portion size was much more like a much more like a generous appetizer than main.

The service in the bar was good even though it was slow at times due to playing the World Cup USA vs Portugal match. Once we were seated in the second room to officially start dining and the game was over, service was great. Our server was peppy and yet casually friendly without being too over the top.

If we lived in the area, we definitely would be frequenting Kirkland Tap & Trotter several times a month. That’s how much we enjoyed our meal. We can’t wait to come back and explore more of the menu, come back for more specials, like $2 grilled oyster night, or try brunch here in the future.

Kirkland Tap & Trotter
425 Washington Street
Somerville, MA

Kirkland Tap & Trotter on Urbanspoon

Cameo Macaron Food Truck, Boston

Here at BakingMeHungry headquarters, we have an obsession with macarons. They’re one of our favorite delicate confections. We caught the Cameo Macaron food truck at the corner of Stuart Street and Trinity Place in Back Bay the other Friday afternoon. Cameo Macaron is a new food truck for 2014 that will be in business for almost 3 months soon. This pretty playful pink food truck is the business baby of Northeastern graduate and former Talbots retail buyer Kinesha Golden. She fell in love with macarons during her study abroad in Paris. Although Golden initially made the macarons herself, she now works with a local pastry chef to help with large quantities.

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How cute is this decal? I love the macaron print on her skirt.

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A single macaron is $2.50, six for $15, a dozen for $29 and 24 for $56. You can place large orders and pick them up at the food truck. Or of you have a large event such as a baby shower, wedding etc. you can contact Kinesha directly through her website.

They have a wide variety of flavors to chose from. Unfortunately for me they were out of the following five flavors when I stopped by- lemon tart, rose, white chocolate, vanilla, and passion fruit. We got peanut butter & jelly, espresso, black currant, pistachio, salted caramel, and raspberry to try.

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The macarons come with business card with care instructions on the back that state:

“Our macarons are made fresh daily of the finest quality ingredients.

For best results, they should be refrigerated and enjoyed within 5-7 days or frozen for up to 4 weeks.

Macarons are best served at room temperature. If storing in a refrigerator, allow approximately 10 minutes for the macarons to reach room temperature. If being stored in a freezer, allow approximately 30 minutes for the macarons to reach room temperature.”

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Kinesha suggested the peanut butter and jelly macaron and she was spot on. It was delicious. It was the first pb & j one we have had and we highly recommend it. The sweet jam and salty peanut butter were well balanced.

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The pistachio flavor was good but we wish there was more of a pronounced pistachio flavor.

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The salted caramel was my sister’s favorite. It was very rich and buttery with a subtle hint of salt.

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My favorite was the espresso bean flavor. The flavor was well rounded, not to sweet or heavy.

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The black currant was great despite being a little crushed from my tote bag. The currant flavor was noticeable and the macarons wasn’t too sweet.

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The raspberry macaron was also very good. I liked that there was a slice of raspberry jelly holding the macaron together instead of buttercream.

We wish them much more future success and will definitely be stopping by to try the other flavors.

Cameo Macaron
Mobile Food Truck
Boston, MA

Cameo Macaron on Urbanspoon

Pho Viet’s, Allston- Banh Mi

Pho Viet’s is one of many mom and pop Vietnamese restaurants in the Boston area. They are located in the Hong Kong market food court. If you ever happen to find yourself hungry in Allston with only a few bucks to spare, look no further than Pho Viet’s. For only $3.75 (it used to be $2.70 when I first started coming here years ago), you can possibly get the best sub ever made.

The banh mi come in beef, pork, chicken, shredded pork, tofu, and ham. The only ones I’ve ever had are the beef and pork. They both taste fairly similar with the pork tasting a little sweeter to me. It starts off with a freshly baked airy baguette slathered in their house mayo. Next comes a generous portion of marinated grilled meat topped of with fresh crunchy tangy pickled radish & carrots, cucumbers, spicy chilis or jalapeños, and a few sprigs of fresh cilantro. It’s a simple yet delicious sub.

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Grilled beef

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Grilled pork

Don’t have high expectations of stellar high end customer service and you’ll be fine. They want you to order quickly and get you your meal as fast as they can. Service was fairly quick despite being in a queue at 6 in the evening that was 7 people deep. There’s not a lot of difference in styles of banh mi avaible but what sets different places apart is quality. The good quality and constant turnover of the ingredients combined with a good price help to make this a restaurant a regular in our Boston banh mi rotation.

We’ll be back to try the pho, bun bo hue, combination rice plates and of course, more banh mi.

Pho Viet’s
(Hong Kong Market food court)

1095 Commonwealth Ave

Boston, MA 02215

Pho Viet's on Urbanspoon