There is nothing mongrel about the grub at Samwon Garden: It’s traditional, non-risky, and very solid Korean fare. Of course, for many folks in the Fort, even standard Korean will be a culinary adventure. This restaurant, which opened about a year ago, is by most estimations the first of its ethnicity in Tarrant County. For any city that desires to have a restaurant scene of at least some significance, this is no small event. And, luckily, Samwon Garden delivers the goods, albeit with few surprises or innovations for veterans of Korean cuisine. For you newbies, by the way, understand that Korean food is spicy, though not on the immediate blowtorch level of Vietnamese or Thai — it’s more of a slow burning, oh-damn-this-is-really-hot kind of spiciness.
There is a certain ceremonial quality to a sit-down Korean meal. All you ex-tots who dug playing with tea sets will get a kick out of the dozen or so small, shiny white porcelain condiment bowls that accompany each entrée. They give a slight air of formality to otherwise informal digs. Condiment selections go from marinated (peeled, red-flecked squares of radishes and crunchy, yellow-topped bean sprouts) to pickled (sweetish yellow-green cucumber slices) to fermented (the love it-or-hate-it red chili cabbage dish known as kimchi). Those with the patience to try kimchi more than once may acquire a taste for this surprisingly hearty, savory, and spicy veggie dish with a great ginger aftertaste.