Written by Eric Ginsburg, photos by Sam Bridges
A photo of the buchu japchae — small pieces of pork with chives tossed in sesame oil and served with steamed rolls — is the best looking dish on the menu, but at $18 for the smaller appetizer portion, my friend Sam and I figured we’d order the 20 water dumplings and five-piece chicken in Korean sauce for a fraction of the price. Our main courses — the lunchbox special and the bibimbap — cost just half of the small pork, chive and roll appetizer each.
But the woman serving us at Da Sa Rang, a small restaurant in the plaza outside Super G Mart in Greensboro with an overhead sign whose lone English words are “Korean restaurant,” didn’t want to hear it.
After taking down our appetizer orders, a question from Sam about the buchu japchae prompted her to insist we try it instead, though she had just finished saying the smaller size is designed to share amongst a group of three or four. Even though Sam had been here before — apparently enough that she remembered his interest in spicy food — and I’d previously dipped in to try the kimchee pancake, we’re outsiders. Already teetering on the edge, her admonishment pushed us over.
It may be the best call either of us made all week, and that’s saying something considering we took tubes down the Dan River two days later.
The buchu japchae would’ve been satisfying enough on its own, but more exciting than the heaping green portion in the middle of our shared plate was the eight rolls sitting around it like campers by a fire. The steamed rolls looked like Silly Putty folded back on itself repeatedly and squished into a ball, with the consistency and feel of a hand-sized exercise ball.
At first we peeled them open, using the semi-sweet bread like injera in Ethiopian cuisine to scoop up the pork and chives. But with our permission or server showed us a better approach, cracking the top open almost like an egg by sticking forefingers from both hands into a roll and pulling it apart. Next, she explained, we should stuff it with the buchu japchae. Both approaches were immensely satisfying, as was using silverware to nab any stray stuffing once the white rolls disappeared.
I first came to Da Sa Rang on the advice of a friend, who said that if nothing else, stopping in for the unique kimchee pancake as a shared snack was not to be missed. As enjoyable as that excursion was, and as tasty as our entrees last week proved to be, the pork with chives and steamed rolls should be considered one of the best menu items in the Triad.
As Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” switched to Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood” on a barely audible radio in the kitchen, we dug in.
Truly everything Sam and I tried at the small, L-shaped Korean restaurant delighted us. Runner up belongs to the bulgogi, or Korean beef, that came in the “lunch box” special. Paired with somewhat pickled slices of cucumber, kimchee, rice or shredded carrots, the bulgogi tasted sinfully good, even in comparison to other local restaurant’s great takes on the standard fare.
And for anyone familiar with bibimbap, a mixed rice dish with meat and veggies that is most identifiable for the egg cracked on top, Da Sa Rang’s offering holds its own, albeit not presented in a stone bowl that continues cooking the contents after being served like Don on Tate Street.
An avid bicyclist and outdoorsy kind of guy, Sam said the flour noodles topped with black soybean paste and pork and vegetables would be perfect after a long bike ride. Even though he’s tried it and a few other things — including the jam bong spicy seafood noodle soup — on the menu before, it would take a while for anyone to work through the onslaught of options. There’s spicy pork, octopus or squid lunch specials, one dish that looks like it contains a whole young chicken and other rarities including mackerel, Korean sausage and pork hock. Da Sa Rang even offers Korean-style bacon cooked on the grill for $24, one of its most expensive choices.
This is the sort of place where it seems near impossible to go wrong. I’m guessing Sam wouldn’t have been any less pleased had he chosen his initial entrée inkling, the jjol myun, a cold dish with thick, spicy noodles served with bean sprouts and vegetables. Our server pushed for that as well, comparing it to a sweet and sour sauce taste but spicy, and suggesting it as his likely favorite of the buffet of noodle options.
He didn’t listen that time and emerged on the other side perfectly content, but I’m so glad we ponied up for the buchu japchae and steamed rolls. I think I could eat it every day.
Visit Da Sa Rang Korean Restaurant at 4929 W. Market Street (GSO) or find it on Facebook.