Chic Korea: Meju in Davis Square

image41After much fanfare, Davis Square’s new darling Meju has finally opened. While its sibling Bibim in Allston prides itself on a homely interior setup, Meju’s interior is far more sleek and modern, with clean intricate chandeliers and a well-stocked, minimalist bar on the side. Despite the contemporary setup, Meju doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel in terms of its food. Its soft opening offered a limited menu emphasizing traditional Korean comfort street foods.

We started off with tteokbokki, the iconic sticky rice cakes slathered in the iconic fermented chili paste, gochujang. With the basic ingredients in hand, this is a dish that tends to be rather standard across all Korean establishments. Meju’s version featured rice cakes that were cooked to a perfect sticky consistency whereas one might find them chewy and undercooked or mushy and overcooked in certain other places. A light layer of mozzarella on the top might seem like an odd pairing but it certainly balances out the heat of the peppers for those unaccustomed to the taste.

Veering away from the traditional seafood pajeon, we opted for the kimchi pajeon (pancake) instead. The iconic taste of fermented cabbage wasn’t as pronounced as one would have expected. However, what salvaged this dish was the crispy exterior with the satisfying crunch that accompanied with each bite. The soy sauce mixture on the side definitely made up for the lack of seasoning on the pancakes as well.

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Onwards to the soft tofu stew and spicy pork bulgogi, the classics of Korean street cuisine. Tip of the day: ignore the option of white rice and go for the purple rice. As odd a color as purple might be for rice, it is a form of glutinous rice that provides a wonderful nutty flavor and earthiness to complement the various fermented pastes of Korean cuisine.

Unfortunately the soft tofu stew didn’t quite live up to expectations. One could have arguably gotten a fuller, richer, more affordable pot of stew at Kaju Tofu House. Similarly, the spicy pork bulgogi was served up lukewarm and at its price point of close to 20 dollars, one would reasonably expect a larger portion. The pork itself was barbequed to the appropriate consistency but the flavor of the meat could have benefited from a longer marinating period

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This chic spot offers a great option for unique cocktail blends and a weekend hangout spot. The overall quality of the food however, while satisfactory, does not quite live up to its price tag. Granted that Meju is very much in its infancy and is just now starting to crank out a full menu, it might take another few weeks before it really finds its footing. For the cash-strapped college student, spots like Kaju Tofu House seems a much better alternative for a comforting bowl of spicy peppery broth to warm up to in the harsh winter months.

Ambiance: A

Service: A-

Food (taste): B

Food (presentation): B

Price: $20-40/person

Overall: B

-Finn Qiao