Brookline’s wok star.

Back to the dark days of fall 2003, when I was unemployed and yet somehow convinced to share an expensive and crapulent apartment in Boston, on Park Drive at the Fenway “T” stop.  Very little positives from that time, as one of my roommates was also perpetually unemployed and we thus had a lot of time to argue about whose dishes were in the sink, and the tap water tasted like mushrooms.  However, the era was not a culinary ice age.  Besides frequent trips to El Pelon, I discovered a restaurant which STILL ranks as my number one favorite cheap Korean in the universe: Han River.

Located on Beacon Street on the Boston/Brookline border (Green Line C at St. Mary’s), Han River is a mom and pop storefront that appears to cater to Korean students at BU who need a taste of home.  The “student” thing is really crucial, as it means that the food is at least 50% cheaper than every Korean joint that I’ve found in Manhattan.

For example, take my personal favorite Korean dish ever, pork bul go ki.  At $8.25, you won’t get to cook it at your table, but that’s perfectly fine with me – the chile-drenched stir fry is probably better when mama makes it anyhow.  A heaping pile of meat will find its way from her wok to your plate, served on top of white rice and sided with some kimchi, bean sprouts with a light sesame-oil-like coating, and a bowl of seaweed soup that is probably best skipped unless heated ocean water is your idea of a good time (and it ain’t mine).  The spicing is just enough to make you reach for a drink without blowing your head off, and the meat is invariably cooked to the perfect intersection of chewy and tender.

On my recent visit, with two others, I also sampled the chicken gu yee, which was a sweet take on stir fry, with flavors including honey, soy sauce, and sesame oil.  The texture of the chicken was admirable and, thank god, not deep fried.  I didn’t get to taste the bi bim bop, but I heard good things about it, and the dumplings were a favorite when we got dinner to go three years ago.

Kind of out of the way unless you’re at BU, I suppose, but it’s absolutely worth the detour.  If you’re lucky, you can sit on the couch at the in the window and watch the trolleys go into and out of the tunnel, or maybe just people-watch.  Good, cheap fun, and for the broke post-college student I was at that time, fifteen minutes of forgetting my predicament.  I’m just glad I don’t live on Park Drive any more.

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