Reviewing Mama’s House Korean Restaurant is difficult. It is an eatery that will be divisive no matter how you look at it. For starters, the location is un-glamorous, and even that might be overselling it. Second, Korean cuisine has not jumped into the American zeitgeist in nearly the same way that other Asian traditions have. Select neighborhoods in New York and California might boast popular, real Korean food, but that has not been the case in the Midwest. And finally, if you are someone who has adventurous taste buds, it might not be worth the effort to sway a picky eater to try a little kimchi. So what’s a foodie in a group of friends to do? Suffer through another take on pub food or withstand the whining of a captious tablemate?
Mama’s House might be the answer for you because it does a fantastic job balancing Korean homecooking with dishes that will appeal to pickier palates. This is apparent before you even take that first bite of bulgogi. Unlike other ethnic restaurants, Mama’s House label their menus and signs in Korean first and English second. This dedication to authenticity will satisfy a diner looking for the real thing while the English “subtitles” and explanatory placards at each table will soothe those who are uncomfortable in strange environments. Additionally, the menu choices are not watered down with American favorites like Chicken fingers… Instead, more accessible choices (like spicy pork and teriyaki steak) are highlighted near the tops of the menus. The result is a restaurant that can appeal to both types of eaters.
And appeal it does: Korean food is very unique, and Mama’s House does not pander to Americanized taste buds. For instance, the lunch menu (which is surprisingly cheap for huge portions) serves full entrees with assorted banchan (traditional side dishes). I ordered Yuk Gae Jang (spicy beef soup) with various kimchi sides and rice. The soup was the perfect temperature for a rainy day and the ample amounts of Korean red pepper flakes made each spoonful explode with flavor. The various banchan provided a cooler, but no less flavorful taste experience; what’s really great about Korean cuisine is the range of flavor profiles you get in a single meal. The fermented radish was slightly sour but had a lovely firm texture. The cabbage kimchi was, as you might expect, simultaneously spicy, sour, and salty. And, when all of that spice becomes overwhelming, the julienned radish and fermented cucumber brought a slightly sweet and cool respite. That kind of variety means that if any one dish is unpalatable you’re not stuck with a large portion. You can simply try a different side and move on.
The bottomline: Mama’s House serves Korean homecooking that can cater to palates of all preferences. For even more fun, visit at dinnertime to take part in the table side barbecue. Griddles in the center of the tables use real charcoal (as opposed to the gas-heated surface of a Japanese hibachi) and each diner can grill their own food. This type of dinner is both fun and allows you to control what you eat and how, meaning you can venture as far outside of your comfort zone as you want. That being said, the best food at Mama’s House are the choices that are unfamiliar. Do yourself a favor by trying something new. Before long, you’ll be making your own kimchi at home.
Written by :Brian Banta