I hate walking out of a restaurant and feeling incomplete. As if something is missing. Like the ‘yum’.
It all started out well enough. Several friends had discovered Garlic & Ginger and said it needed to be tried. We were invited out finally, and prior to heading over there, we looked up the menu online. The website was out-of-the-box generic, but at least it didn’t look like a child had designed it in 1998. And the menu was also in Korean. So these were possibly good signs.
We had somewhat high hopes for the place even though it was located in a storefront in a Publix shopping center at the end of Archer Road, past the Land of Chain Restaurants. There were hand lettered signs in the window announcing the place was now open seven days a week. There were only three tables full on a Tuesday night at 8:00. Still nothing terrible.
The first little alarm bell went off when we cracked open the menu. Almost nothing on the drinks menu. And… flip … no, flip… back up, um, what’s Korean for ‘vegetarian’? Even after asking the waiter, there were a total of three things on the skimpy menu that didn’t include beef, pork, sea food, or similar. Not a tragedy, I know. But in Gainesville, it’s rare to find a restaurant that doesn’t have at least some obvious vegetarian options. Even these were somewhat sketchy.
Our tablemates had the huge ‘Seafood Paradise Special’ platter which arrived in a sizzling cast iron skillet. I ordered the Tofu Jab-Chae, sweet potato noodles with veggies and tofu. And The Man had the Tofu Dolsot Bibimbap, a hot pot with rice, veggies and an egg (and posibly some meat products clinging to the egg from something left on the fryer). Oh, and the green tea which was as fresh and tasty as Kool-aid.
My dish was ho-hum, and somewhat difficult to eat the long, sticky noodles with my metal chopsticks. I eventually mastered the knack of rolling the noodles around without elbowing The Man in the head. The Man was terminally underwhelmed by his dish, which even doused with copious amounts of Korean BBQ sauce. Our table mates had a few complaints about their dish being different than they normally got.
I like to think the kitchen was having an off night. I can only hope. Because our one time experience left me feeling like a mediocre Korean restaurant got bought out by a college student fresh out of the UF with a marketing degree and zero interest in food. The only thing going for it was they obviously used fresh veggies and tons of mushrooms. Not a lot of garlic or ginger from what we could tell.
It was a sulky ride home after, with both of us pouting about the experience and our determination to not repeat it. We were full, but there was very little flavor in the whole meal. In our opinion, Garlic & Ginger didn’t live up to its name.