Saturday, April 7, 2012

Korean Secret Garden Restaurant - Santa Clara

Inspired by recent Korean drama, I was determined to find any restaurant that serves mauentang (spicy fish soup). And I found this Korean restaurant in Santa Clara. So off we went to check it out.

It was a weekday night and early in the evening, there were only a handful tables occupied when we arrived there. We were sat at one of the booth that had a built-in portable stove with an exhaust on top of it. We knew what we wanted to try so deciding the first item wasn't hard. The second item was a bit difficult but we settled with spicy octopus stir fry (nakji bokum).

As we enjoyed our tea, a waitress brought out a small plate with japchae (Korean style stir fry glass noodle) and fried fish cake? on it. I was starving then and straight away dug in. But couldn't help thinking is this the only side dish (ban chan) we are going to get.
Steam egg and pickled veggie

But that wasn't it. The japchae was almost like a preview to the array of ban chan yet to come. Some of the ban chan we had that night were pretty unique and were not typical kimchee and soybean sprout etc. There was this steam egg that had very mild taste to it. Also green veggies (bokchoy?) with chilli. And pickled veggies in some sweet sauce that tasted like the Chinese pickled choisum.
Other ban chan

The one dish that lured us there finally came out. It came sizzling with orange red color broth and green chrysanthemum leaves floating. The waitress brought us two small bowls and a laddle. I stirred the soup and scooped out a combination of seabass fillet, sliced jalapeno, sliced onion, garlic for each bowl. Then inpatiently I took a sip of the broth. The broth was rich in flavor with a dominant taste of bonito. It was different from what I expected I guess. I was expecting a bit sweet and sour element in it but I guess this is not tomyum soup. :) Nevertheless me and husband enjoyed every bit of it.
Spicy seabass soup

The nakji bokum was a bit disappointing. It was served on a regular plate instead of sizzling cast iron plate. It did have a smoky stir fry flavor in it but the octopus was too chewy for us. Also I was expecting it to be a bit more sweet to bring balance to the saltiness. But I guess the most surprising part to it was when hubby pulled out a piece of 'octopus' that just a glimpse it looked like octopus but when he bit into it it was dukbokki (rice cake). I guess it wasn't a mistake because there were at least a few more afterwards. I wasn't too sure if it was written on the menu or was it a pretty common thing to prepare nakji bokum with dukbokki.
Stir fry octopus (nakji bokum)

Korean Secret Garden Restaurant

3430 El Camino Real
Santa ClaraCA 95051    (408) 244-5020