I love having friends who are adventurous eaters, improving the experience at certain restaurants by allowing us to share lots of interesting dishes that the less adventurous might not be willing to try. We had such friends in tow at Woomi Garden (2423 Hickerson) the other night, and it paid off in stinky kimchi spades. Woomi is always good but the Chef’s Korean Specials menu section is most rewarding (nothing wrong with their bibimbap or barbeque offerings, but nothing extraordinary either) — though we started, as usual, with the excellent gun mandoo, thin-walled fried dumplings stuffed with beef, pork, and vibrant greens, a little greasy but well above average. Seven or eight good panchan too, the fish cakes were in especially fine form.
Then we branched out into several items I’d never tried at Woomi, including jap chae, clear noodles pan-fried with pork and vegetables, notably some tasty black mushrooms. I expected to like this less than the other dishes, but it was my favorite, great savory stuff. The other dishes were also good, but I don’t remember their names and Woomi strangely puts only about half of its menu online so I can’t look them up. One was spicy fried pork atop a mountain of kimchi and tofu (ratio unbalanced in favor of kimchi and disfavor of pork, but we liked it anyway). The other was supposed to be stirfried squid, but they brought stirfried octopus instead; Woomi is the kind of place where it really doesn’t matter, you accept the zen of whatever arrives at the table (we also ordered 12oz beers and were brought 22-ouncers instead; how could we argue with that kind of fate?). The octopus was overcooked but edible and swimming in a delicious onion-laden red sauce.
So the service was friendly and efficient if a little off, but that’s typical at Woomi (especially for non-Koreans), at least the spicy dishes were actually spicy. One other odd development: many of Woomi’s prices have gone up, it looked like about $2 or so per entree, but instead of reprinting menus they have taken a black indelible marker to the old prices and written new prices in ballpoint pen above the old ones. A money-saver, but not exactly classy. Still, overall, a fun exploration of previously unknown-to-me dishes.