On a cold, cold night, nearly all is right


U Jung offers fresh and plentiful mix of Asian cuisines

December 17, 2003|By Tom Waldron | Tom Waldron,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

On a recent bitter night in Baltimore, the diminutive U Jung Restaurant on West 20th Street was a most inviting place. Pleasantly sharp and smoky smells emanated from the kitchen, and an order of rice and vegetables, served in a hot stone pot, sizzled enticingly in front of a customer.

Judge Judy presided on one television screen; the security system provided a view of 20th Street on the other. Pretty tropical fish swam languorously in a large tank nearby.

U Jung serves Japanese and Chinese offerings, but Korean dishes are at the heart of its menu. Korean barbecue is best prepared and eaten on site, but our carryout order did not suffer in transit. The four dishes we ordered were fresh and plentiful.

And the side dishes that are ordinarily served in Korean restaurants - little orders of pickles, sprouts, cooked spinach in a sweet vinegary sauce, kimchi, tiny dried fish and rootlike vegetables we couldn't identify - came along for the ride, adding a delightful crunch to our meal at home.

We are hard-core bul kogi ($14.95) fans, so that dish was a given. The marinated strips of beef served with perfectly cooked rice probably would have been more pleasing hot off the table grill, but that didn't stop the devouring hordes.

The bi bim bab ($7.95), a kind of super Korean salad featuring noodles mixed with a fried egg, vegetables, ground beef and a slab of tofu, was a symphony of textures and food groups.

Maewoon kal bi tang ($12.95), a soup stocked with short ribs, broth, scallions and noodles, was spicy and satisfying and stick-to-the-ribs hearty. The next time snow is in the forecast, I'll head to U Jung Restaurant for the soup instead of the grocery store for the milk.

The fried chicken garlic flavor ($13.95) was tasty in a fast-food kind of way. Imagine popcorn chicken tinted a fluorescent orange. A fashionable departure from the usual fried fare found in the usual chain establishments.

Our server also threw in a container of miso soup, always a soothing complement to an Asian meal. U Jung had no desserts.

U Jung

Food: ***

Service: *** 1/2

Waiting area: *** 1/2

Parking: ***

Where: 12-16 W. 20th St.

Phone: 410-230-0422

Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. every day

Prices: Korean, Japanese and Chinese appetizers, sushi and entrees from $4.95 to $25.95; credit cards accepted

Outstanding: ****; Good: ***; Fair or uneven: **; Poor: *

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