131 W. Central Blvd
Palisades Park, NJ 07650 (across from the Shop Rite plaza)
Web Site: http://www.keumsan.co.kr
Palisades Park is known for its Korean food. We have so many Korean restaurants in this town that some have even specialized themselves for specific kinds of dishes. A new restaurant which recently opened up near the Shop Rite in Palisades Park is Keumsan, which is actually a chain restaurant from Korea that specializes in a dish known as Samgyetang (SAM-GI-YEH-TANG) which is a special Chicken Soup flavored with Ginseng. They also have another soup called Goditang (GO-DEE-TANG) which is a broth with Marsh Snails in it. Yum!
Parking at Keumsan is tight, so you might need to park your vehicle across the street at Shop Rite.
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Maybe I haven’t been descriptive enough in explaining exactly what Samgyetang and Goditang actually are. Here’s Keumsan’s excellently written marketing material:
Pray for the repose of the mercifully sacrificed chicken’s souls. Thats freakin’ intense for a mission statement!
Everyone’s clear with that, right? Okay, onto the food.
Like many NJ restaurants, Keumsan doesn’t have a liquor license. But there’s a liquor store next door, so you can BYOB. Here’s an uh, interesting brand of Soju we found. Note the brand name, “PYONGYANG” and the “Product of the DPRK” stuff at the bottom of the label. WTF? This is the Soju of the Dear Leader! Who is evil enough to be importing this? Surely it must be illegal!
Holy crap, they bring it in from Jersey. I expected this stuff to taste like super-harsh rocket fuel (like the stuff that powers their faulty ICBMS) and to have to spit it out, but I got to hand it to Kim Jong Il, this stuff was pretty damn smooth. I wonder if your average North Korean citizen can even afford to drink this and if it is primarily just for export. I debated the ethics of supporting a dictatorial regime known for a massive history of human rights violations with this purchase, but when you’re washing down Kalbi and getting plastered, the greater political issues tend to fade away. I’m not sure I’d buy it again since I am more of a Doosan Sahn Soju or a Andong Soju fan, but I’ll try anything once.
8-25-08 EDIT: According to independent reports, this particular brand of soju contains trace amounts of poisonous snake venom which is caught using political prisoners/slave labor. Obviously, this would be a major deviation from the stated “Corn, Rice, Wheat” ingredients on the front label. How this could pass USDA and ATF import restrictions especially being from North Korea puzzles me.
Here’s a view of the main dining room.
Poster with Keumsan’s signature dishes.
Here is the main menu page. Keumsan also specializes in Shabu Shabu, but the restaurant is so new that they don’t have Shabu Shabu or Goditang yet.
The Samgyetang description in the menu.
Metallic chopsticks. I don’t know what it is with modern Korean restaurants, I happen to hate these things because they are very difficult for Westerners to eat with, as if we don’t have enough problems with chopsticks already. The historical reasons behind them were so that the Korean emperors/empresses could tell if their food was poisoned when the metal got discolored, so eating with these exudes a certain level of Imperial classiness, I guess. They do have the wooden ones, so just ask for them.
A sampling of Banchan dishes. We also got the usual variety of Kimchi as well — both Radish and Cabbage and also bean sprouts.
The main event, Samgyetang soup. There are several varieties offered on the menu but we decided to go with the basic chicken one without any add-ons (mushrooms, seafood, etc). This is a small whole chicken in a very large bowl of soup, with glutinous rice. if I had to describe it, it’s somewhere between bubbie’s Jewish Penicillin (“chicken in the pot”) and a Japanese rice porridge soup. It’s very comforting and the Ginseng taste is a background flavor rather than in your face, which I like. Ginseng is known primarily for its medicinal (read as, it puts lead in your pencil) qualities and is highly prized among the Koreans and Chinese.
Kimchi Jigae Stew. This spicy tofu and kimchi stew comes with a side order of Kalbi.
Kalbi (Short Ribs). I thought these were very good even for a non-BBQ place.
This is a Mungbean Pancake dish. I thought this tasted kind of like a latke, different from the standard Pajun you get at many Korean restaurants.
Here’s a favorite dish of mine, cold spicy buckwheat noodles, or Naengmyun (NANG-MEE-UN). There are different varieties of Naengmyun, some in just a cold clear beef broth. I happen to like the spicy one the best.
These are slippery as hell to eat with the metal chopsticks. But oh so good, especially on a hot summer night.
I’m not sure what the Korean name for it is, but it was described as “Chicken Shish Kebab” on the menu. They were really good, with nice big peices of Korean mushroom on it with the grilled veggies.