Seeing a platter of assorted raw meats that I have to cook myself and a dish referred to as a seafood pancake did not initially pique my appetite.
Despite my cautious attitude, I wanted to give the menu at Mountain View’s Ginseng Korean BBQ & Tofu a fair chance. I admittedly know nothing about Korean cuisine and what is considered authentic or Americanized.
Unfortunately, I became uneasy when my friend and I walked into the empty restaurant on the city’s main downtown drag at 6:15 in the evening. I couldn’t wait for the other four ladies in our party to get there to help fill up the place.
Dish of Choice
I didn’t have a big enough appetite to do the “All You Can Eat BBQ,” so I chose the Dohl-Soht Bi-Bim-Bap. It was a sizzling hot clay pot filled with rice, topped with sauteed vegetables, a fried egg and your choice of meat or tofu. I chose beef.
My friend and I also split a plate of Gun Man Du, deep-fried pork and vegetable dumplings. I also ordered a glass of house white wine. My portion of the bill came out to about $18.
I will say this: I might have a slight allergy to eggs. For some reason, I can only have a small portion of egg or I become nauseated. If I do eat eggs, they have to be scrambled, and I usually have a half-cup portion at most.
In hindsight, I should have ordered the Bi-Bim-Bap without the egg, so that was my fault. However, I wanted to keep the dish authentic and not swap anything out. Part of the egg was runny, and spreading the yolk throughout the dish added an unpleasant texture and taste.
That being said, the vegetables were cooked at a well-balanced point between soft and crunchy, and the meat was tender and thinly cut. The dish itself had a weird sweetness to it, and it lacked much-needed spice. I was not wowed by the main course.
I did enjoy the dumplings. They were a bit greasy but had a nice crispiness on the outside. The filling was savory and tender. It made for a good appetizer.
The chardonnay tasted like the bottle had been open for a few days, having a slightly flat, vinegary aftertaste. To the waiter’s credit, he gave us the wine for free because it was the last of the supply.
Along with not having many people during prime dinnertime, there were a lot of fruit flies lingering around our table. It was very distracting to have to wave insects away from your food every 10 seconds.
Our waiter was quiet but nice and let us split our checks six ways. Most restaurants in the area won’t let you pay separately in a group of that size. More customers started coming in around 7:30 p.m., giving me the impression that Ginseng is more of a late-dinner spot.
Ginseng Korean BBQ & Tofu is located at 475 Castro St. For more information,visit www.ginsengkoreanbbqtofu.com.