Mrs. Vennerable and I make it our personal quest to check out as many bulgogi offerings as we can. That being the case, it should be no surprise that the two of us made our way up to Doraville and stumbled into Today Restaurant (or Woori Jip for the Korean in you) to add another notch in that bedpost. You see, most Atlanta foodie fanatics have made a food quest or two up Buford Highway in search of great grub. The area is knee deep in what we American’s identify as “ethnic food;” and, if you didn’t know better … you could probably spend a few years eating a meal a day there and never enter the same stronghold more than once.
Despite the endless array of options, a handful of restaurants in each cultural compartment always seem to garner a good bit of attention. In the case of Korean cuisine, Hae Woon Dae is one such establishment. Why do I mention HWD in a review of Today Restaurant? Simple, because they are smack dab on top of each other. Unfortunately for Today, Hae Woon Dae is a bit of a behemoth in reputation and I can’t imagine it helps to be their neighbor. However, as Vennerable and I turned into the somewhat off the beaten path parking lot at 5805 Buford Highway, the mystery of the unknown is exactly why we stepped out of the shadows for a meal (well, that and the fact that Don Quixote is closed on Sunday’s).
Snuggled between those two eateries you’ll find a demonstrative sign and a busy as a bee doorway. Behind that door sits the predictably styled establishment known around these English speaking parts as Today Restaurant. At first sight, the ground work was certainly there for a foodie discovery worthy of the “Foodie Finds” tag (currently reserved for The Kind Pie and Celia’s Carniceria). While the meal didn’t quite knock it out of the park like those two, we left feeling like we got our monies’ worth.
The digs at Today are distinctly Korean. The walls are lined with a mix of artwork, menu listings, and that Soju babe who seems plastered all over town. Meanwhile, a couple of large TVs spewing an onslaught of fun to watch Korean programming compliment the handful of booths and tables that take up the L-shaped dining hall.
Service during our visit was handled interchangeably by two sweet as can be Korean women. They were extremely friendly and had a good grasp of English; this will certainly lend itself well to more apprehensive diners and will make things a little less intimidating. As a fringe benefit, one of the women helped expand my Korean vocabulary from two phrases to three … though don’t ask me what the new phrase is because I’m still practicing. For now, my butchered pronunciation might mean I end up telling some poor Korean to go fly a kite! Let’s put it this way – their English is far better than my Korean is or will ever be.
Moments after sitting, we were each handed a double-sided English menu of available dishes. It read like a standard “what’s what” of American-friendly Korean options. Don’t get me wrong, nothing was “in-authentic,” my only point is that the food on the menu should be familiar to anyone just getting their feet wet with Korean cuisine. It’s certainly worth noting that I managed to spot (and grab hold of) a much more extensive menu that was entirely in Korean. I suspect several items were exclusive to the one written in Korean.
So as I mentioned, the bulgolgi was a forgone conclusion. To supplement that, we experimented with their “Spicy Pork ver rie.” My initial excitement over a new dish was quickly reeled in when I realized it was simply a typographical error. The waitress took our order and gladly sauntered away only to return a few moments later with a trey full of banchan (side dishes). It included all the requisites (bokkeum, namul, kimchi … etc), and many of them were sufficient. [PS … if you want a really good explanation of all that stuff … go ask this kid!]
Of the slew of items before us, the one worth talking about the most is the kimchi; after all, it is one of the more identifiable Korean dishes. Kimchi is (usually) made from fermented cabbage and seems ubiquitous in the States. It’s a dish that comes in more than 100 different ways. We were served a straightforward baechu kimchi (which is what most of y’all will be familiar with). In this particular case, the fermentation process wasn’t handled properly and the chili sauce was a bit on the excessive side.
This particular problem reared its head when the spicy pork arrived. The intensely rich shade of red caught my eye and told me right away that this dish included hot kimchi with pork samplings. Served over a bed of white rice in an ample size bowl, this was a good deal at $9.00. The dish itself was a mixed bag. The problematic kimchi left things a little too gooey and a little to sweet. However, when the sliced pork found its way between my chopsticks, the bites were a bit more well rounded. The pork itself was full of flavor and its natural saltiness helped make the dish comforting. The dish had enough kick that it might be heavy to the more sensitive palates; however, it really struck the ideal balance between spice and flavor. At its best, the dish was pretty good … at its worse, it was still manageable.
After a few moments with the pork, my attention turned to the fajita tray of bulgolgi ($12) sitting on the other side of the table. It was piled high with a mixture of marinated rib-eye and vegetables. Though the advertised listing intrigued me with the inclusion of rib-eye, I must say that the meat didn’t have that wonderfully rich color I’m used to out from high-quality rib-eye. This bulgolgi settled in at above average, but not a true winner in either the quality of ingredients or flavor departments. Those tried and true Korean flavors were there, but several of the bites were bland. Meanwhile, the explosion of flavor you’d expect from the meat itself was absent considering that this was such a high fat content cut. All in all, people who aren’t familiar with really excellent bulgolgi will find this quite comfortable; however, if you’ve spent any amount of time with a Korean mother, this probably won’t stack up in the pantheon of great renditions.
The meal came to a pleasant close with some friendly chatter between the two of us and one of the servers. That type of exchange shouldn’t be overlooked. Pleasant interactions go a long way, regardless of what food is ever put in front of me.
Post meal, I sat down to do a little digging on Today. Needless to say, there’s a little bit of attention, but not that much. What is out there seems to suggest that Today Restaurant is one of the top flight Korean restaurants in town. It isn’t. However, Today is reasonably priced and comes with a side of smile. The food isn’t half-bad and I wouldn’t feel bad about eating this a second time. Did it blow my skirt up? 🙂 Not even close. It might be hard to convince myself to skip out on some of the more successful Korean food in town; but, if you’re looking for a new place to try … it’s not too shabby.
Today Restaurant Address & Information
5805 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30340 // 770.454.9020