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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Columbia Eats: DJ House

Decker Blvd. and the surrounding area never ceases to amaze me with the diversity of its ethnic eateries. It's sometimes easy to forget about this strip of restaurants due to the lackluster look and decaying mall in the area, but the boulevard holds an endless amount of tantalizing choices to pick from including everything from Vietnamese at Pho Viet, Mexican at the Taquiera, sushi at Inakaya, and Korean at O Bok, Hero's, and today's review, DJ House.

Located just a few shops down from the local Asian grocery store, DJ House serves up a wide variety of authentic Korean fare ranging from bbq to stews. While I have many favorite Korean dishes, today was all about one of my favorite bites in the Columbia area - the DolSot BiBimBap. BiBimBap is a traditional Korean rice dish filled to the brim with a mixture of vegetables done a variety of ways. Served with a fried egg on top, it is mixed to perfection with a large spray of chili bean paste for good measure. The DolSot BiBimBap, however, takes it up a notch, being served on a hot stone bowl which allows the rice to caramelize and form a crispy crust right in front of your eyes. My DolSot BiBimBap came to the table hot and sizzling with a beautiful crackling sound that makes you just want to just sit there and swoon for a few minutes. The rice was wonderfully sweet and crispy thanks to the hot stone. The vegetables were all flavorful and worked together harmoniously while the garbi - Korean barbeque - gave the dish a wonderful grilled flavor from the meat and just the right amount of saltiness. Finally, the chili bean paste - an essential item for any true BiBimBap - tied it all together with a little sweet and spice. Overall, just sheer heaven.

For those who may have never been to a traditional Korean restaurant before, each order comes with a handful of side dishes from kim chi to pickled this and that along with something fried, something sweet, and something spicy. Along with my DolSot and the side dishes, my amigos for this trip tried out a few other traditional bites, including the garbi as mentioned earlier, and the hot and spicy pork. Sweet, salty, and just a bit spicy, it made for a flavorful lunch bite, though nothing as life changing as the DolSot. DJ House also has a variety of stews such as the Kim Chi pork stew and various cake stews. I personally find them a bit strong for my tastes, but for those interested in getting a hot, rich, and spicy stew for the few cold days in SC may want to give them a shot.

No Reservations, The Shakedown on DJ's
Atmosphere: Somewhat cramped, but lively with local Koreans eating here often.
Cost: For lunch, fair considering the $6-7 lunch menu. The bigger and better eats begin at $10 and can go way up.
Try: The DolSot BiBimBap
and the Garbi.
Don't: Go for the boring stuff if you can. DJ's list of Korean fare is extensive, try something new!

The Final Verdict
I can't argue that DJ House is the best Korean place in town considering how many Korean restaurants there are including Blue Cactus next to USC. For the DolSot and Garbi though, it's safe to say that DJ satisfies my Korean cravings every time I come in. It's a relaxing place to bring friends, chat, and try out some things that you most likely wouldn't normally see anywhere else.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Columbia Eats: Julia's German Stammtisch

I admittedly felt a little weird walking into Julia's. Cardboard-cutout figures of German characters plastered in the front invited my comrade and I into the small, but humble German restaurant hidden in tiny strip mall almost out of sight in the heart of Columbia. Inside, a wealth of Christmas-related items hung from the walls and stared at us on the table. I can't deny that I was a little unsettled looking at a tiny toy Santa in the eyes, but the smell of fried stuff was just too tantalizing to turn back on, so I just looked the other way and forged on.

If you've never had schnitzel before, it's more or less a huge piece of pork or veal pounded into oblivion, coated with breadcrumbs and lovingly fried until golden brown. There was other stuff on Julia's menu, like brats and etc., but let's be real, a big heaping plate of schnitzel is where its at.

For lunch, three schnitzel specials are offered, the traditional version, the jagerschnitzel - a schnitzel with a mushgroom gravy on top - and the holsteiner schnitzel, which has a fried egg on top. I opted for the jager along with a side of spatzle, an egg pasta.

I'll admit that I am in no way an authority on German food or schnitzel, but holy jesus Julia's jagerschnitzel is awesome. Not at all greasy, crisp, and just the right serving (huge), it's just great eats. The spatzle was a nice, delicate side only made better by the mushroom gravy sprawled on top. My comrade went with the fried egg schnitzel and a side of German potato salad. An enthusiastic two thumbs up only confirmed the fact that fried egg only makes things more amazing.

I normally don't hype about a salad and roll, but Julia's pre-schnitzel salad and roll is totally worth a few dozen words. The salad, a mix of beets, greens, and coleslaw-ish stuff served as a wonderfully clean start to the meal. Even my normally salad-denying friend seemed to enjoy it. The roll is almost magical. Crisp and chewy on the outside, super fluffy and light in the center, it made for a great bite during the salad and throughout the meal alongside the schnitzel.

No Reservations, The Shakedown on Julia's
Atmosphere: Slight cheesy, but comforting.
A bit small, expect a wait during busy hours.
Cost: Tough spot, $10+.
Try: The Jagerschnitzel. Spatzle. Desert.
More schnitzel. Beer. (German Beer!)

The Final Verdict
It's a bit costly, but if you are looking for a place to splurge for lunch or dinner, Julia's is totally worth the wait. Julia herself cooks in the kitchen daily and comes out to meet and greet customers, making the local German eatery an even more memorable experience. If you somehow aren't conquered by the schnitzel (no, I can't stop saying it), Julia's constantly shifting array of homemade deserts are sure to hit the spot.

Schnitzel. :P

Julia's German Stammtisch on Urbanspoon