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Monday, July 19, 2010

Kalguksu at Muguboka

Posted By on Mon, Jul 19, 2010 at 7:06 AM

Kalguksu, plus one million side dishes ($9.95). - JONATHAN KAUFFMAN
  • Jonathan Kauffman
  • Kalguksu, plus one million side dishes ($9.95).
Monday, July 19, 2010

Muguboka, which the Weekly reviewed last fall, is yet another of that class of Korean restaurants in America that advertises its barbecue but specializes in everything else: black-goat stew bubbling in a wok big enough to serve six; platters of kalamata-colored soondae, blood sausage threaded through with noodles; braised pork trotter; spicy fish stew; a dozen other dishes never touched by a lick of fire. And yet, most of the Richmond restaurant's lunch specials involve some combination of barbecued meats and soft-tofu stew. The sole exception is a bowl of kalguksu (well, Muguboka spells it "kal cuksu"), or hand-cut noodles.

Muguboka's panchan.
  • Muguboka's panchan.
While the anchovy broth the noodles float in doesn't have the depth of the soup at To

Hyang, the kalguksu themselves are correct ― square-sided, hand-cut lengths, thicker than udon and twice as firm. They're the kind of noodle that you chew pleasurably for several minutes, a gustatory base camp you return to between forays into the wilder, craggier flavors of Muguboka's panchan. And there are far more of the little plates than you normally see at lunch: cabbage kimchi, of course, coated in chiles and garlic just a few hours before, as well as sweet pickled daikon, sesame-tinged bean sprouts, pickled seaweed, caramelized soybeans, and a few hot-dog coins simmered with soy sauce, malt syrup, and whole cloves of garlic. Lunch begins with a cup of toasted-barley tea and ends with another drink: a few sips of cold cinnamon tea, sweetened until it's almost viscous, whose flavor washes away all the garlic, peppers, and salted fish you've consumed. All you taste, as you leave the restaurant, is sugar and spice.

Muguboka 401 Balboa (at Fifth Ave.), 668-6007.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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