A few weeks ago while I was checking the Twitter account for Hyoungry Man, I noticed a fellow Nashville food blogger & Twitter friend, Beth Eats, tweeted about her recent lunch experience that day. What caught my eye in particular were three words: “Gloria’s Korean Kitchen”. After a few quick tweets, I found out that Gloria’s Korean Kitchen was actually found in Franklin, TN. Having recently taken a new job in Brentwood, I was minutes away from Franklin and saw it as a perfect opportunity to plan my next meal there. Korean restaurants in Nashville are far & few between. While I admit I haven’t eaten at every Korean restaurant, I know for a fact that there isn’t one conveniently located in the southwest area of Middle Tennessee near Brentwood/Franklin.
Despite punching in the exact address on Google Maps, it was a little hard to find if you’ve never seen it. Google Maps claims that it’s directly on the intersection of Carothers Parkway and Bakers Bridge Avenue. After a little bit of exploration, Haley and I found it in the suite adjacent to Walgreen’s. Gloria’s Korean Kitchen will be the very first suite.
To tell you the truth, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Haley hasn’t been exposed to much Korean food and I wasn’t even sure if she’d like it. Having been raised on Korean cuisine (both homemade and restaurant style), I expected a small hole-in-the-wall owned by an elderly 1st generation Korean lady. In fact it was the opposite. Appearance-wise, Gloria’s Korean Kitchen is small and simple. What surprised me was the lack of the gaudy atmosphere that accompanies most Korean restaurants I’ve visited. When we arrived, there were 4 other groups already enjoying their meal with 2 more arriving shortly after we placed our order.
We were greeted by a friendly Caucasian waiter who was prompt and helpful. Since this was my first time there, I asked him what the most popular dishes were. He stated that the bibimbap (a Korean dish with rice and a mixture of other sautéed vegetables and meat) and the chapchae (sautéed glass noodles marinated in a sweet sauce with minced beef and vegetables) were the most popular. In all honesty, I don’t like chapchae or bibimbap that much. The reason for this was because my mom burned me out on chapchae and bibimbap was something my dad fed me on a frequent basis. However his method of bibimbap was a conglomeration of leftover foods from several meals before and banchan (side dishes). After a bit of debating, I finally settled on the pork bibimbap and Haley settled on the ssam (Korean Lettuce wraps) with chicken.
While we were waiting, we were given banchan to munch on. Banchan is basically different side dishes that accompany your meal. Of the sides, there were four: cabbage kimchi, pickled cucumber and garlic, slices of fish ham, and coleslaw. My favorite of course was the cabbage kimchi. As much as I am embarrassed to say it, I think that it might be as good (if not better) than my mother’s kimchi. The kimchi was perfectly fermented with an intense sourness and complimentary spiciness. More importantly though, the cabbage was not mushy from the fermentation process.
My next favorite was the pickled cucumber and garlic. Both vegetables were heavily pickled and had a rich infusion of a sweet, vinegary liquid. I believe that one of the sauces that Gloria’s Korean Kitchen offers with their dishes is derived from these pickled vegetables.
The other two sides were just ok. I would have preferred another type of Korean banchan and I’m not even sure if other choices are available. Having never eaten fish ham before, it reminded me a lot of the Japanese fish cake called kamaboko (Koreans call it eomuk or odeng). The taste resembles that of imitation crab meat but with more of a fishy essence. The coleslaw was just that, but with a heavier creamy flavor. Because of my hunger, I ate all the banchan prior to our meal being delivered and asked for refills on each once they arrived.
When our food was delivered, it was delivered by one of the other chefs. What I particularly liked was that he took the time to explain (to Haley) how to eat her dish as well as what to do with her sauces. He did a much better job than I could or would have done.
In regards to my dish, I was surprised to see that my bibimbap was actually dolsot bibimbap. In regards to ingredients, there is no difference between the two. The bibimbap comprised of a mixture of vegetables (mushrooms, carrots, spinach, lettuce), daeji gogi (pork), and a sunny side up fried egg. The difference is that dolsot bibimbap is presented in an extremely hot stone bowl, which continues to cook the contents within the bowl and keeps the meal nice and warm. A side effect from this is that the rice becomes slightly burned and gives it a slightly crunchy/chewy texture with a twist on traditional rice flavor. Koreans call this nureungji. Accompanying the dolsot bibimbap were two sauces: a red pepper sauce that was a derivation of gochujang (Korean red pepper paste) and the cucumber/garlic-infused soy sauce.
Haley’s meal comprised a plate of butter lettuce leaves, a plate full of filling (chicken, sautéed onions, cabbage, carrots, spinach), a bowl of rice, and sides of red pepper, cucumber/garlic-infused soy, and miso (actually a derivation of doenjang, a soybean paste) sauces.
As for the taste of the food, I will repeat what I told my brother up in Louisville. At Gloria’s, the food is definitely Korean but with a slight twist to make it more appealing to the general public. I would probably dub it as “Americanized”. Some things are the same as I remembered… like the dolsot bibimbap and the cabbage kimchi. Others were less intense. For example the miso wasn’t as pungent, the red pepper paste wasn’t as intensely hot, and the soy sauce had essences of cucumber and garlic.
But don’t think that I’m saying all this in a negative way. I think Gloria is going about the right way to attract non-Korean folk to one of the most overlooked Asian cuisines. In the absence of hardcore Korean flavors comes the talent of a professionally trained chef who uses her culinary skills to create her own version of various well-known Korean dishes… which are all made from scratch. In my opinion, the food is just plain good. Not only do the ingredients have a fresh quality to them, but they have that gourmet characteristic.
If you like Asian food, are familiar with Korean food, or at least a tiny bit curious, get in your car and start driving towards Franklin. Even if it’s not convenient for you, it’s definitely worth the drive.
|Gloria’s Korean Kitchen
9100A Carothers Pkwy
Franklin, TN 37067
Bill Total: $25.13 For Two (With Tax)