Stick to Korean fare at Blue Garden

March 12, 1998|By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan | Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan,SUN STAFF

When Chong Im and Chong Won So moved to Glen Burnie 15 years ago, the Korean-American community there was virtually nonexistent, so they opened Peking Garden restaurant at 7523 Ritchie Highway and served Chinese food.

But as more Korean-Americans settled in Glen Burnie, the couple slowly began adding Korean dishes to the menu. About six months ago, the metamorphosis was complete.

The Sos added a sushi bar and new tables with built-in hot plates for Korean-style barbecue, introduced a new menu with Korean, Japanese and Chinese fare, and changed the restaurant's name to Blue Garden.

And Glen Burnie is the better for it -- as long as you stick to Mrs. So's great Korean home cooking. The Japanese dishes seemed mediocre at best.

A lunch companion and I showed up at 2: 30 p.m. on a recent Thursday and found an empty restaurant. The decor -- enhanced by Chinese, Japanese and Korean objects -- was cozy, and the new sushi bar looked impressive. But the staff, watching cartoons and Jerry Springer in the dining room on a television perched on the sushi bar during our entire visit, made us feel like bothersome guests in someone's home.

The lunch menu, available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, features dishes including sushi, tofu stew and beef and noodles served with salad, dumplings, California roll and vegetables for $6.95 to $9.95.

We decided to sample dishes from the main menu and began with the man doo ($5.95) -- Korean pan-fried dumplings -- and the tempura appetizer ($5.95) -- deep-fried battered shrimp and vegetables.

The man doo was excellent -- glistening dumplings that were perfectly crisp on the outside and had soft, juicy minced beef on the inside. And the dip -- made with soy sauce, green onions, garlic and sesame oil and seeds -- was great.

The tempura, however, was nothing unusual except that its dipping sauce was not authentic Japanese style. It was thicker and much sweeter than it is supposed to be, which upset my friend, a tempura fan.

We then split the Rainbow sushi roll ($10.95), comprising five kinds of fish, including salmon, tuna and flounder. The roll was lacking in presentation -- the bulwark of a Japanese dining experience -- and looked haphazardly slapped together. And the taste was merely passable.

We also shared the chicken gui ($14.95), barbecued boneless sliced chicken marinated in Korean hot sauce and served on a sizzling hot plate. This was an absolute stunner. The chicken was unbelievably soft and incredibly tasty. It's worth making a trip to Blue Garden just for this dish.

We ended the meal by splitting dessert -- yokang ($3.50), a Japanese sweet, soft red bean rice cake. It came in about six thin slices, which we picked up with toothpicks. It was OK but a little on the unconventional side. I'll probably go for the green-tea ice cream next time.

Blue Garden

Where: 7523 Ritchie Highway, Glen Burnie, 410-761-1965

Hours: Lunch/Dinner, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

L Prices: Appetizers, $4.95 to $8.95; entrees, $7.95 to $22.95

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, Diners

Rating: ** 1/2

Ratings: * culinary wasteland

**** culinary heaven

Pub Date: 3/12/98

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