by J.D. Herman

Myung Dong Korean Restaurant is such a gem that I am almost hesitant to share the secret. When you know about a restaurant that is off the foodie radar it’s kind of fun to keep that knowledge close to the vest. Ultimately though, good food should be enjoyed by as many folks as possible, and this restaurant should be on your short list of places to try soon.

Myung Dong sits across from Bayland Park in a rustic shopping center, just west of Bellaire in the Brays Oaks District. You could easily miss the restaurant (the street signage is written in mostly Hangeul characters) if not for the bright green and blue exterior.

Once inside, we were instantly greeted by the enticing aroma of Korean BBQ or “bulgogi”. It smelled so good that I knew I was ordering the thinly sliced beef cooked in smoky seasonings before we even sat down. Our waitress, Jessica, helped walk us through the menu. They offer traditional Korean staples including Bi Bim Bap – steamed rice, vegetables, a fried egg, and beef or tofu served in a single bowl- but since it was a rainy day, we followed Jessica’s advice and focused in on the specialty soups. Options of beef, chicken, and fish stews are all available in different variations and preparations

You definitely want to try the roasted corn tea. It’s made in-house daily and has a wonderful nutty flavor that we enjoyed while scanning the menu. Most folks opt for seafood pancake as a starter, but we went with the kimchi pancake. The roasted corn tea offered an earthy balance to our pancake appetizer, which despite having a hint of heat was also slightly sweet.

For entrées we ordered the beef bulgogi and the kimchi jjigae. The kimchi jjigae is a spicy vegetarian soup made with tofu, mushrooms, potatoes, and zucchini. The soup arrived bubbling in a hot pot with individual bowls for self-service. It was hearty yet light, with a unique spice note. All of the dishes were served family-style. One appetizer, soup, and entrée could easily feed four people, especially since the meal is accompanied by an array of condiments: spicy cucumber and radish, fish cakes, and kimchi.

The simplicity of the décor stands in stark contrast to the complexity of flavors offered on the menu. Wood paneling and sparse decorative touches make for a simple and incredibly clean atmosphere. The service was attentive throughout and the casual atmosphere makes this a wonderful stop for lunch or dinner any time. Bonus: it is BYOB, so bring your favorite bottle of wine!

Houston’s diversity is a wonderful strength and it is easy to celebrate our diversity through unique culinary opportunities. If you find yourself on Bissonnet just west of Hillcroft, stop into Myung Dong and get in on the secret by treating yourself to some of the best Korean food in Houston.