Words and Photos by Amanda Campbell
Near the corner of Grace and Harrison Streets is a mom and pop run restaurant that blends in with its surroundings. With a plain white brick exterior and a bright red door, Mama’s Kitchen looks like just another mediocre Asian eatery. It is the food though that sets it apart and raises the bar in terms of flavor and quality.
The restaurant is not pretentious, it doesn’t pretend to be any more than it is, and the menu doesn’t claim to serve anything super fancy either. The selection is simple, moderately priced Korean comfort food.
Walking into Mama’s Kitchen, there are a few wooden tables and some small nondescript art on the wall. At the back of the small restaurant space is a menu board above the cash register and a clear case with containers of miso soup and kimchi. Next to that is a drink case and a white board with the day’s specials on it.
The man at the register, who seems to be the owner, is friendly and nice, and offered help with deciding what to order. The menu offers a variety of semi-traditional Korean meat, seafood, vegetarian and noodle dishes.
Staring up at the menu board, I decide to get the sweet and spicy shrimp combo that comes with mandoo (dumplings), kimbap (kind of like a vegetable sushi roll), miso soup, rice, and kimchi.
The shrimp are breaded, fried, then tossed in a thick sauce that has a sweet honey taste with a slight peppery kick to it. The shrimp are cooked well and the natural shrimp flavor is not lost in the sauce and breading – they complement each other well.
Filled with pickled and fresh thinly sliced vegetables, the kimbap has a nice balance of acidity and crunch with the rest of the meal. The miso is also pretty good, with a salty, well-seasoned broth and bits of carrots and cabbage in it.
The kimchi is a nice end to the meal. Though it lacks the heat that traditional kimchi has, the marinated cabbage has a good but strong vinegar flavor and a spicy kick from the red pepper flakes that give the dish it’s signature red coloring.
As for the beef bulgogi, the grilled meat has a tangy soy sauce, sesame and garlic flavor to it, and it’s mixed with stir-fried green peppers, onions and lettuce. Overall, the amount of food that each “combo” meal comes with for $10 is unbeatable given the freshness and quality of the ingredients.
Final Vedict: Though it may not be “traditional” Koran flavors, the food is pretty good and very filling for a great price.