If you are a true foodie, seeing a new and interesting restaurant open its doors in your neighborhood probably makes you about as happy as a trippin’ hippie at a Dead concert. The other day I was driving home from work and took an unexpected detour to avoid a huge accident, thanks to my navigator T-Pain on Waze, and I passed a sign I did not recognize. My foodie radar began to ping and the bleeps, sweeps, and the creeps directed me to further investigate this new eatery. As I drove past I was able to catch the name of Fair Lawn’s newest establishment, Kimchi Mama, and I knew I would be eating there in the near future.
A few days later Kat and I were tired and hungry after a long hike in the Ramapo Mountains and we decided that we needed to eat something before we continued the rest of our day. After a brief discussion it became apparent that Kimchi Mama would be the perfect restaurant to fill the void in our bellies and we were excited to give it whirl.
Parking is slightly rough because Kimchi Mama is located at 7-09 Fair Lawn Ave., Fair Lawn, NJ and there are several other businesses that are located on that stretch of the road. However, since we had our pups in tow and it was stupid hot that day, Kat stayed in the car with them, so I could park in the Chase parking lot, across the street.
As I entered Kimchi Mama I noticed that there was no seating in this restaurant, so plan to take your meal home with you or drive a few blocks to the park and chow down alfresco style. I was greeted immediately when I entered by, who I can only assume, is The Kimchi Mama, and she was very personable and welcoming.
Furthermore, she was extremely knowledgeable, considering there were a few things on the menu that I not only could not pronounce but I would have had to google the shit out of to find out if they were vegetable, animal, or mineral. She was very good at recognizing that although I was adventurous, I needed some assistance throughout the ordering process, and she was patient to boot.
After speaking to her for a brief period of time, I contacted Kat and like a coach devising a plan during a timeout, we quickly mapped out our meal. By the way, I want a white board with the outline of a belly on it so at a restaurant I can huddle up my friends and devise a true food play. Patent Pending, don’t steal my ideas you jerks!
We decided to rock Dukbokki, Pork KimBap, and a Vegetable Pajeon Pancake for our appetizers and a large order of Dwaeji Galbi (Korean Spare Ribs) for our main meal. Since it was our first time there we were unaware of the portion size and we had the hike hunger, so we decided to go big. Don’t judge us! Think of our gluttony as your research!
We knew we were ordering big, but we did not realize just how big. The amount of food that was handed to me from THE Kimchi Mama was unexpected and extremely appreciated. When we arrived home we began to unpack the two bags of food that were wafting a wonderful smell throughout my house. I had to fight the urge to attack the first thing out of the bag with a fork with a determination that few have ever summoned.
Not only did we receive all the things we ordered but there were several small containers of pickled doo dads and spicy awesome sauce, scattered throughout the bag. Not to mention the rice, Miso soup, and of course the Kimchi that also made an appearance. Altogether, Kimchi Mama hooked us up with quite a spread for under 40 bucks, and that is how we like to Roll!
We decided to take the pancake for a test drive first. If you like the Scallion Pancakes that are on the menu at your local Chinese Take-Out spot, you need to order this immediately. The texture was a perfect combination of crunchy and chewy, and the heaps of vegetables contained in the pancake added a wonderful roasty and earthy flavor. When paired with the sauce that we believed it should be dipped in, a dark soy-like liquid, all the flavors melded together to create an umami grenade of sheer delight.
Next up, in our marathon of eating was the Pork Kimbap. Basically, this tasty treat is a pork sushi roll, but have no fear the pork was cooked. As you can see from the picture above this dish was beautiful, what you can’t tell, is just how tasty this treat was. Stupid future, get on that stuff, Edible 3-D Printing, make it happen.
As our bellies began to fill, we decided to clean our palates and take a breather from solid food before continuing this ambitious feast. We slowly sipped our Miso Soup and discussed our battle plan to destroy the rest of the food that littered our table. The soup was a wonderful intermezzo and was on par with most Miso that one could procure from a high-end Chinese Food Restaurant.
We moved on to the Dukbokki, and with limited knowledge on what we were about to eat, we deiced to forego the Googling and dive right in. I fell in love at first bite! On the menu this dish was described as Rice Cakes, Fish Cakes, and Onion stir fried in a sweet and spicy Korean pepper sauce. This cup of amazing, was slightly fishy, slightly spicy, and when poured on top of the rice was all sorts of awesome. Each forkful brought new flavors and interesting textures that made this dish my favorite thing we tried, thus far.
I had to put the stipulation of thus far in the paragraph above because we tried our main course directly after the Dukbokki, and holy hell I was impressed by these meaty bone-in tidbits of yummy. By themselves they were tasty, but when wrapped in the provided lettuce and slathered in the sauce we were instructed to pair them with, they entered a whole new level of flavor country. A region of savory that I do not believe I had ever visited before. It was as if Kat and I were Lewis and Clarke, and this dish was 100 miles west of the Mississippi River. If you venture to Kimchi Mama, and you should, make this dish your first choice and I guarantee you will return.
The moral of this story is, when T-Pain tells you to make a left, you make a damn left, because you never know where the road may take you. My detour directed me to Kimchi Mama and for the foreseeable future, I will be taking this detour quite frequently. The service was wonderful, the food was amazing, and you can’t beat the price point. “In a quarter of a mile, Amaze-balls!”
Kimchi Mama’s menu can be found on their Facebook page and on GrubHub.