The lunchtime chaos brewing in The Commons each day is a beast to be tamed. For UB alum Austin Lee, the owner of Austin’s Kitchen, opening day only lasted two hours, before the restaurant ran out of ingredients for the day.
The new Korean comfort food joint opened Dec. 1 and has limited hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Upon entry, Austin’s Kitchen is noticeably different from its predecessor, Korean Express. Inside, there’s more tables, cheaper prices, convenient ordering systems and a clean and welcoming atmosphere. Another big difference is Austin’s Kitchens’ menu offerings — five core dishes and two specials.
Among these offerings are tteokbokki (rice cakes and broth), soondooboo (spicy tofu soup), donkatsu (deep fried pork), bibimbap (rice mixed with egg, vegetables and a choice of protein) and kimchi fried rice. So far, the most popular dishes are kimchi fried rice and donkatsu, according to Lee.
Students looking for something filling and packed with vegetables will find bibimbap ($9) to be a worthy choice. Carrots, cucumbers, bean sprouts, lettuce and rice come together to create a crunchy journey worth embarking upon in this dish. All vegetables come steaming with warmth, and the egg is the perfect touch to round out the flavor profile. The gochujang drizzle on top adds an umami element worth exploring, too. The best part about this dish is its versatility, making for a perfect morning munch or afternoon snack.
Tteokbokki ($9) is a perfect comfort meal that is as rich as it is spicy. Soft fish cakes lay across a bed of chewy, broth-saturated rice cakes. Since the rice cakes have soaked up all the seasonings, they deliver a punch of tingling spice and heat with every bite. Crispy cabbage and green onion top off this simple yet effective meal, which features a variety of textures throughout.
The kimchi fried rice ($9) is a near-perfect dish. The rice comes out fluffy and warm. The kimchi and rice are layered under sliced green onions and a fried egg, creating a delectable scramble similar to the bibimbap. This dish could benefit from additional spice, as the heat builds incrementally, then plateaus. It also could benefit from one or two vegetables to give the meal a little more dimension. On the whole, the kimchi fried rice is a dish worth ordering again.
The prospect of opening a new restaurant during a global pandemic is most definitely bleak. But with the overwhelming amount of support Lee says he has received so far, he hopes to expand his options to include two weekly specials and other small changes to make the customer experience even better.
Jack Porcari is a senior news/features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jack Porcari is a senior news/features editor at The Spectrum. He is a political science major with a minor in journalism. Aside from writing and editing, he enjoys playing piano, flow arts, reptiles and activism.