Recently, a few of my friends have been asking me where to get the best Korean food in the South Bay (San Jose Area of California). It’s then when my drill down questioning starts, because some places make great soups while others make great meat dishes. It is very rare to find a single restaurant that does all types of Korean food well.
But for most beginners and/or the uninitiated, I would recommend Myungdong Grill in Santa Clara, CA. Yes, the restaurant is located in the heart of SF Bay Area’s K-Town – El Camino Real and Lawrence Expressway. This place is very unassuming from the outside, as it shares the strip mall space with a 빵굽는 마을 Baking Village and Salvation Army Thrift Store. Once you are able to find it, you will find a clean and contemporary Korean restaurant.
You will find table-top-grill-equipped seating along the walls, and the middle rows feature plain tables. Don’t forget to tell the staff that you want the grilling seats if you are planning to grill – they forget to ask sometimes. The menu covers look like they belong in a museum, as they look and feel substantial.
I, personally, frequent this establishment on a regular basis. So on this fine evening, my date and I decided to order some 순두부 soondoobu and 해물 파전 haemul pajeon (seafood pancakes).
Let me get my one and only gripe out of the way first. When a customer orders appetizers, such as haemul pajeon, the appetizers are supposed to be served ahead of the main course. This restaurant does not seem to care about that simple rule, because the appetizer dishes have come out along with the main course several times. But, in all honesty, Korean dinner tables do not feature ‘appetizers, per se… that is such a Western cultural thing.
And now to the good part. I ordered my usual, the 김치 순두부 kimchi soondoobu with average spice level, and my date ordered the extra hot 해물 순두부 seafood soondoobu. The soup dishes at Myungdong Grill are consistently good. Although many people swear by So Gong Dong Tofu House, I feel that the quality of their food has dropped off significantly in the last few years–to be honest, the flavor of SGD Tofu House soondoobu is too much like 신 라면 Shin Ramyun!
The various 반찬 banchan dishes are also standouts at Myungdong Grill. They are not too sugary and feel like mom’s cooking. The soondoobu has the right flavor and spice level, the texture of the tofu is just spot on, the ingredients are well matched and fresh, and the broth consistency is well above average. Lastly, the haemul pajeon is no joke either – perfectly cooked and the seafood bits were very tasty!
All in all, I would highly recommend Myungdong Grill to most people. They feature all types of great dishes, especially the soups and grilled meats. You will not be disappointed with the food, however their service can be somewhat of a mixed bag. Even with that said, the service issue will not be a hindrance to your enjoyable dining experience.
1484 Halford Ave Santa Clara, CA 95051