By Nina Willdorf
One might have expected to find more in the way of cowboy beans than bibimbop at Central Square’s Koreana, given its Western-y faded-leather menu covers and plush maroon booths. It came as a bit of a surprise, then, that the menu lacked not only the cowboy variety, but Boston baked beans as well. Still, the restaurant served up an extensive array of remarkably diverse dishes.
Selecting from the menu was difficult, but we finally settled on a few items. Small veggie gyoza appetizers ($4.95) were simple and decadently fried. Mixed with a soy sauce garnished with green onions, though, they sparked to life. A Boston maki ($5.50) — containing cucumber, tuna, and avocado — was firm and fresh, but the ginger garnish on its side had a tinny aftertaste that seemed to betray canned origins. The signature dish, bibimbop ($11.95), was a medley of symbiotic flavors thrown together with spicy barbecue sauce: shiitake mushrooms, sprouts, beef, zucchini, carrots, and spinach crowned by a fried egg lay on a plentiful bed of white rice. The shiitakes were the strongest element in the mix, succulent and sweet. It was dangerously easy to polish off a large pot.
A chicken-barbecue entrée ($11.95) was the real winner, with a sweet soy flavor that permeated both the plentiful small meat chunks and the pieces of red and green onions tossed in. Marinated lotus root, steamed broccoli, spicy kimchee, and zucchini tempura, placed in the middle of the table in small bowls as snacks or garnish, substituted for traditional pre-meal bread. As for the other bowl occupants, well, after you ...
Koreana, located at 154-158 Prospect Street in Cambridge, is open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. and Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to midnight. Call (617) 576-8661.