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Monday, February 11, 2013

Songpa Yukejang: Our first Korean hang

Lunch date #30: January 18, 2013     

When we started this project, part of my reason to try to eat in every restaurant in Pleasanton was due to the observation that we tend to return to the same place over and over rather than risking new experiences. In our very first blog a year ago, I mentioned that although I drive by it daily, I have never tried the Korean restaurant on Santa Rita near Mission Plaza. Although it has changed titles (and maybe owners) numerous times, this has been a Korean spot for quite some time. Since it was our 30th date, we figured it was time to get to Song Pa Yukejang, 2025 Santa Rita. I asked my Korean-American friend, Jamie, for some advice and felt we were prepared to give Korean food a try. Mom was prepared with her chopstick pincher-cheater-device, so we were all set.

Location 2 points: This is a bit of an odd one: located in the parking lot of the "economical" Tri-Valley Inn and Suites motel. Actually enter the restaurant from the parking lot side in the back. Not an inviting location, most definitely, but easy to find.
 Ambiance 2 points: Pretty stark with Formica-topped tables, very little décor, and an industrial style thin carpet. The best part of the indoor décor is a fake interior roof on the wall designed to give the feeling that you're eating on a patio.

Menu selection 3 points: How on Earth would we know! We judged by the fact that there were a lot of choices in each type of food selection. According to Jamie, this place's signature dish is their spicy beef stew (Yukejang). Problem is that neither Mom nor I care for food that is really spicy…and I was concerned that by Korean standards, it might be quite out of our range. We played pretty safe: Mom ordered the BBQ spare ribs and I got the Dolsot Bibimbap , a hot stone rice bowl with veggies and beef.

Food 3 points: We had no idea that our selections included "banchan" appetizers. We had several small plates of kimchi, marinated tofu, fish bean sprouts and potatoes, and pickled cucumbers. All were very interesting and fairly good. I was disappointed with the Bibimbap: mostly rice, a few veggies and then just a very few slices of roast beef. I actually needed to add a fair amount of the red-chili sauce served along with the dish (served in a large plastic bottle), to give it some flavor. Mom liked her BBQ ribs better, but they were too crispy for her to eat easily. Still the ribs had good flavor.

Service 3 points: Our server (the only server ever--according to posts on Yelp), was very quick to take our order, bring out tea and the banchan. Our entrees were soon to follow. Our only criticism was that he wasn't able to describe the dishes or help with the ordering. I'm not sure if it was a language issue, or if her preferred not to talk. After delivering our food, we really didn't see him again until he brought the bill.

Value 3 points: We felt that the fee for the meal at $11 each was a bit high, especially since mine had about 3 thin pieces of beef. On the other hand, the banchan and tea were included…so it is on par with a usual lunch. Interesting to see that the fee for the dinner selections was pretty close to the lunch prices-so a good deal for dinner. Since we felt that the food was just fair, this affected our feeling about the fee for the food quality in this category.

Overall score for Songpa Yukejang: 2.7 points. We felt that it was OK, but certainly didn't impress us as being all that great. Our findings could be due what we ordered and our lack of knowledge of Korean cuisine, but it was an interesting experience and we were glad to give it a try. 

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