Jeon Tong Noodle House 

Jeon Tong Noodle House breaks the mold of shabby Buford Highway haunts by looking more like a Korean grandmother's living room than a drab ethnic eatery. The inside is freckled with plants, ceramic Korean dolls, silk orchids and knickknacks that together provide a pleasant, and sparkling clean, eating experience.

Korean Supersize: "I'm an American, I already have enough fat in my diet," my husband cracks when I try to get him to stop peeling the curl of fat off of each slice of soft steamed pork that lays in front of us. The pile of shank meat is served on a large white platter surrounded by crisp leaves of lettuce, slices of raw garlic and chunks of jalapenos. There are two size options: medium or large ($19.99 and $24.99). Don't be fooled by the word "medium." This platter could feed at least three.

The lettuce is not for decoration. Grab a leaf and stuff it with the pork and accompaniments. The circus of flavors swirls in each bite, riffing between garlicky pops and peppery burns with a quiet pork taste anchoring each mouthful. Three dipping sauces tantalize all tastes: a piquant bean paste, dried squid and fresh peppers in vinegar, or a spicy red sauce with a touch of sweetness.

The loneliest noodle: Unlike most Asian menus, with streams of dishes, this one is short with only a half-dozen offerings. I am surprised to find only one hot noodle dish on the menu considering this place identifies itself as a noodle house. The seafood noodle bowl ($5.95), a steaming trough of mild broth made from mussels and clams, is served at your table brimming with silken strands of rice noodles. In the bottom there might be a clam, chunk of potato or slice of zucchini, but generally the dish is mostly noodles bathing in a white pepper-scented broth. The soup is delicious and light.

Keep the kimchi coming: Of course, this wouldn't be a Korean restaurant if there wasn't an endless flow of kimchi. I have no idea why so many people turn their noses up at the pickled pungent concoctions. I could eat any of them forever. Two variations -- pickled cabbage with red pepper sauce and turnip squares in the same spicy brew -- are brought to the table complimentary.

If you like the vinegary pucker of pickled cabbage and carrots, try the spicy kimchi and vegetable dumplings ($5.95 for 10 pieces). These slippery steamed dumplings, made fresh daily, pull apart easily, leaving their innards behind in the dipping liquid you mix yourself with soy sauce and vinegar. If kimchi is not your thing, order the fried beef dumplings ($5.95 for eight pieces). The slightly blistered skin of these ground beef bundles stuffed with cellophane noodles and veggies have only the slightest pull between your teeth.

I tried to find out why the menu is small and if there were any dessert options, but the language barrier was rather prohibitive. Instead, I got a warm smile and my check. Maybe Jeon Tong Noodle House doesn't break the Buford Highway mold after all.


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