Thursday, December 3, 2009

Review: Secret Garden/Bi-Won

Name: Secret Garden/Bi-Won
Address: 2731 Erie Blvd E, Syracuse, NY
Phone: (315) 449-3333
Neighborhood: Salt Springs (Erie Boulevard East)
Menu: View Menu
Cuisine: Korean, Japanese
Restaurant Hours: Monday-Tuesday 11:30 AM to 10 PM, Thursday 11:30 AM to 3 PM and 5 PM to 10 PM, Friday-Saturday 11:30 AM to 11 PM, Sunday 1 PM to 9 PM
Parking: Private Lot
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Delivery: No

Before hitting up the "Turner to Cezanne" exhibit at the Everson Museum, my family and I decided to head over to Secret Garden on Erie Boulevard to fill up with some Korean food beforehand. Situated across the street from Erawan, Secret Garden is actually owned and operated by the same family that owns the Sakana-Ya sushi restaurants in Fayetteville and Armory Square, as well as Han's Oriental Supermarket located directly next door.

The inside is clean and open with separated, general seating sections, large tables, and a newly remodeled sushi bar near the back. There is also outdoor seating (weather permitting) with each table having a traditional barbecue pit. Personally, I wasn't too crazy about the interior. It was definitely clean and bright, but there was wood everywhere (wood paneling, wood tables, wood chairs). In theory it's nice, but it was a little too polished and hoity. And the chairs themselves actually became a bit uncomfortable after a while.

On the menu, you'll find a lot of different types of dishes like sushi, soups, salads, teriyaki, casseroles, stir fry, appetizers like tempura, fried tofu, and soft shell crab, a small vegetarian menu, and drinks like cocktails, sake, wine and Asian beers. If it's your first time here or at a Korean restaurant in general, the 7 pages of offerings, each with its own translation, might all seem a little intimating. Luckily there are pictures along the sides of the menu to help out.

The order...

Tea: $1.95
Shumai: $4.95
Galbi BBQ: $19.95
Total Money Spent with Tax & Tip: $31

The tea was excellent - very soothing and had almost a sesame taste to it.

Pictured below is the kimchi with other variations (pickled radishes, potatoes, and cucumbers).

I'm still new to Korean food (have only had it a few times) but it seems like kimchi is somewhat of an acquired taste. Essentially, it's salted and fermented cabbage (or veggies) seasoned with chili pepper and served cold. The first time I had it, I had no idea what to expect, but I'm liking it more the more I have it. Here, I particularly liked the pickled radishes and potatoes.

Above are the Shumai: essentially tiny, steamed dumplings with shrimp. I liked them - served warm and the dipping sauce was sweet. Though the dumplings were a tad too mushy for my liking.

Pictured here is the Galbi BBQ: thin, cross-cut beef short ribs marinated with special sauce, served with mushrooms, scallions, and onions, with a side of white rice.

This was great. Tender and juicy pieces of short ribs with a really sweet and tangy soy sauce. Add in some caramelized onions and mushrooms and it really kicked the whole meal up a notch. I would absolutely get this again. I don't even like mushrooms and I found myself eating them.

All the food tasted fresh and best of all, healthy. The nice thing about this cuisine is when you pig out, you don't feel weighted down or guilty or like you need to take a nap afterwards.

And you know the food is good when you've finished your meal and you keep finding something else on the table to pick at.

Other things of note...

- Not only was it a cold day, but it was very chilly inside on this particular visit. Though, maybe it was just be a fluke thing.

- There is an all-you-can-eat buffet on Tuesdays from 5 PM to 9 PM

Overall, I liked it here and would return. There were a lot of other dishes on the menu that looked interesting too. I didn't try the sushi, but I wouldn't rule out giving it a shot when I come back.

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