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Simjang – American-Korean Flavors in the Heart of Worcester

One of Worcester’s most anticipated restaurant openings was this past spring as simjang opened their doors in March on Shrewsbury Street, in the space that once housed Sweet Kitchen + Bar.

The name simjang comes from combining a few Korean words – Sim for “heart” and Jang for the concept of the “world around us.” Executive Chef and Co-owner Jared Forman (deadhorse hill) and Chef de Cuisine Mike Wenc have led the team since the opening and the Foodies were anxious to try the latest addition to the always changing Worcester restaurant scene.

Simjang has been well received by the community at large. Having spoken to many about their experience, most people have found the menu to be a bit intimidating at first but after some explanation by a well-trained staff, feel comfortable enough to go outside their comfort zone and enjoy some traditional Korean ingredients, flavors, and dishes.

The layout of the space itself hasn’t changed since Sweet was there, the big industrial-styled dining room and the open view of the kitchen are basically the same. The décor has been updated to fit the contemporary theme of the restaurant and our Foodie sister Amy tells us, the brightly colored painted mural behind the bar (by POW! WOW! Worcester muralist Arlin Graff) is meant to reflect the meaning behind the name simjang. The mural is beautifully vibrant and sets the tone for what to expect from the food!

Once we all arrived we were seated immediately and our server (Joy) began the process of taking drink and app orders. To start, we were served a delightful plate of kimchi-style pickled small tastes which were well received by the group. Looking down the long table I saw a variety of drinks from bourbons to fanciful, tall sweet drinks with a few Narragansett Tall Boys mixed in for good measure.

The shareable chicken wings and thighs seemed to be a popular way to start the evening’s activities. “The miso-soy garlic chicken thighs were some of the most delicious “wings” I’ve ever tasted. The sauce made you want to take another bite, and the skin was super crispy, while the tender chicken on the interior was moist and flavorful. This item alone is enough to bring me back for more,” said Evan.

Apps complete, the main dishes began to arrive. Amy offered, “I ordered the Kimchijeon (scallion kimchi pancake) and was not disappointed. The size was substantial and offered hearty pieces of pickled muscle giving the pancake a true level of distinction and robust flavor! Scott ordered the same meal and thought it was “delicious” as well!

Robyn ordered the Mulgogi (whole fish) which was served with green empress, daikon, apple, fried shallot and cashews and she described “…it was amazing and something I would go back and order again. It was flavorful and cooked to flaky perfection.

Evan offered that simjang was “innovative Korean-American fusion with menu items that are unique in their own right but familiar enough to take a chance and order something delicious. For my meal, I ordered the Bibimbap with Pork Belly which was a delightfully bright dish with fresh veggies, a fabulous textured creation with the crispy rice, and a fried egg to top it all off. The pork belly was rich and fatty, like the best bacon on steroids you could eat. All in all, one of my best restaurant experiences from start to finish in a long time”.

Julie was very enthusiastic, “The Nuri buttered rice was uniquely delicious and really a meal unto itself. I also had the haemul jjigae (spicy seafood stew) which was served piping-hot and full of flavorful fish, scallops, and shrimp. The spice brought the dish to a different level”.

Stephanie added, “I went way out of my comfort zone and the staff and chef made every accommodation possible because of my food allergies. The Pineapple Fried Rice is a must try and absolutely fabulous”.

“The food was fantastic, a delicious mix of flavors with great tastes. I do think the portion sizes of my meal were on the small side. I had the pork rib special and thought it was appetizer sized for the main dish,” said Dana.

Personally, I had the Nori rice and the Bibimbap and found both to be tremendous. The fatty, melt in your mouth pork belly, combined with the crispy fried rice and fried egg made a flavor-packed, fulfilling comfort-food meal that left me wanting to return.

To the person, we all felt the service was outstanding. Our server Joy was very attentive, knew the menu very well and had great input about choices. As it happens with our larger group, some meals arrived very late to the table but we will chalk that up to the size of our group.

Overall we were incredibly pleased with our experience at simjang and many of us made a point to say we will definitely return to try some new items.

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Choose and Mix with Bibimbap

Bibimbap from Choose and Mix in Worcester, MA

Korean food is a relative rarity in Worcester. For years, finding a good menu lined with Korean BBQ or bibimbap was an exhausting task yielding little or no results. Now, Korean food is claiming Worcester its new home and Choose and Mix, its founding inspiration.

Rolling off the tongue like the sound of a jazz sequence, bibimbap is the quintessential Korean meal-in-a-bowl. Meaning, “mixed rice,” the bowl is a culmination of flavors and ingredients. A dish loaded with rice at the bottom (white rice, brown rice or sweet potato noodles are all options at Choose and Mix) and topped with namul (sauteed and seasoned vegetables), and protein like tofu, chicken, beef, spicy chicken or shrimp, Choose and Mix is serving an authentic Korean icon to all foodie lifestyles with the vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options. The dish is served in a dolsot, a hot “stone pot,” made of agalmatolite with the purpose of cooking the rice until crispy. Bibimbap is a dish exploding with flavor, texture, and creativity. In 2011, the dish was listed at number 40 on the World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods readers’ poll compiled by CNN travel.

At Choose and Mix, the concept of creating your own bowl is only a part of the restaurant’s dynamics. Including authentic Korean dishes like bulgogi – thinly sliced beef tenderloin strips in flavorful Korean barbecue sauce – and galbi – Korean barbecue ribs – Choose and Mix brings more than just good food to Worcester; they also bring culture. While the game changer remains in its presentation of stone pots, it is its price point that really speaks to the Worcester food scene. At an affordable price, ordering a bibimbap dish lunch special includes the bibimbap mix of your choice, miso soup, and a drink, and honestly, foodies love a good deal, especially when it speaks to our quest of searching for authentic recipes.

Choose and Mix offers a welcoming atmosphere, original flavors and a reason to visit again.