Are you already struggling with a new year’s resolution to eat healthier meals? Here’s a helpful tip: dine out at Koreander Fusion Cafe.
The Korean restaurant, located near Watchung Plaza in Montclair, offers many nutritious, delicious food choices. The dishes are generally heavy on vegetables and steam-cooked rice, light on calories, fats and sugars. Serving sizes are generous, but not gargantuan.
I’ve dined there twice over the last few weeks, and both times the staff was friendly and helpful. John Seo, a manager and waiter, says Mi Suk Pak, who owns the restaurant along with her husband, is like a second mom to the employees–who are mostly Montclair State University students from Korea. I like that.
I also liked that after the first meal, the lovely owner (who did not know I was from Baristanet) served complimentary, nutty-flavored barley tea in gorgeous clay mugs “to help with digestion.” That’s hospitality.
Here are my recommendations:
Well Being Bibimbap. The name says it all. Fresh greens, avocado, Korean pear, mushrooms, peppers, shredded carrots and bean sprouts atop steamed rice. Add your own dash of chili or soy sauce.
Bulgogi Taco. I’m not a big red meat fan, but I love Koreander’s slightly sweet, savory and non-greasy Korean BBQ (bulgogi), served with lettuce, peppers and tomatoes on a tortilla.
Lunch box. It’s a beautiful black bento box packed with vitamins. It comes with umami-ful miso soup, California rolls, salad and your choice of meat. I like the chicken, which is moist and flavorful. The less diet-conscious can also choose from pork, bulgogi or beef short ribs. You can ask to substitute delicious, lightly fried dumplings in place of sushi.
Seaweed Salad. I know some people can’t bear the idea of eating these slick greens, but I’m intrigued by the unusual texture and taste of this traditional side dish. Plus it’s loaded with minerals, protein and fiber.
Avocado Mango Salad. Served with crunchy red peppers. Ask for the golden sweet wasabi sauce on the side–a little goes a long way.
Kimchi. This super-spicy condiment comes with most meals. The taste of the red fermented cabbage mixed with scallions, garlic, ginger and other spices isn’t for everyone. But give it a try. The living bacterial cultures in kimchi aid digestion and promote the growth of healthy flora throughout the digestive tract.
Bubble Tea. Ok, this sweet milky beverage is not the healthiest item on the menu, but my daughter adores the mango flavor, and the chewy tapioca “pearls” at the bottom of the glass. The frosty drink also comes in strawberry, coconut, honeydew and green tea.