The black stone bowl brought out, fuming. The milky ivory broth pulses inside, playfully revealing strips of browned beef. Dig a little deeper, my chopsticks find supple strands of white, thin as spaghetti and slick as bubble tea. I submerge the metal spoon into the liquid, the cream parts and congeals. I take a sip.
A few months ago a friend recommended Kunjib as a Korean restaurant unlike any I had been to, and indeed it is. The moment we walk in, the hostesses greet us with twittering an nyong ha sye yo and something that I can only guess to mean “table for two, right?”. I wish I had memorized the phrase list from Sura before coming here, but our waitress quickly realizes that we are different from their other customers and switches to near perfect English. Regardless, I’ll sign up for Korean 1 in the fall semester, I’ve already gotten the Hangul alphabet sorta down. 😉
Kunjib is a restaurant of few and focus: white plates, square bamboo chopsticks, tables set connected in straight rows, little decoration, a corner wall TV tuned to Korean channels, icy cold corn tea, a menu of 11 dishes, a set of 3 kimchis.
The kimchi here is spicier than those I’ve had before – there is still some leftover in my fridge after eating one or two pieces with rice each day for a week. The bibim naengmyeun (비빔 냉면 mixed cold noodle) is also ladened with gochujang (고추장), its color as crimson as the eclipsed moon. Our waitress instructs us to use a pair of scissors to snip the buckwheat noodles into mouth-sized bundles, and Mudpie deftly mixes up the meat and sliced vegetables with the same enthusiasm used to reserved for only dolsot bibimbap.
So with all the chili pepper galore on the table, I don’t expect my sul lung tang (설렁탕 ox bone soup) to be mild. I submerge the metal spoon into the liquid, the cream parts and congeals. I take a sip.
It’s pure bone marrow and collagen in liquid form. It’s as thick as whole milk diluted in water, and as savory as white rice. There is a whispering sweetness in the broth, detectable only when you drink it by itself and vanishing as soon as you get to the noodle or the meat. I love the noodle in galbi tang (갈비탕), but the noodle in sul lung tang clouds my palates.
In the end, sul lung tang is a soup of subtlety, so should I learn to like it in its purest form, or should I add salt?
After fierce cold noodle and shy beef soup come teeny tiny bottles and the check. Back of bottle says “Frozen Dessert: Biocool 2 – Win Soon Inc., South Gate, CA 90280. 62ml (2.1 fl.oz).” To Mudpie, the white flow “tastes like SweeTarts“; to me it sings liquid yogurt: a little fruity, a little tart, a little milky. Pretty good. Mudpie claims Koreana sells the exact same baby bottles.
Address: Kunjib Restaurant
1066 Kiely Blvd
Santa Clara, CA 95051