Thursday, June 24, 2010

Mama's House Korean

In the mood for something different, I stopped into Mama’s Korean restaurant on the east side. Several readers have recommended it as very good Korean food. I have to say, I haven’t quite found my vibe with Korean food yet, but I can see the potential.

I ordered off of the lunch menu because they have very good
prices and you get soup along with the main dish. The prices range from $6-10 or so. The soup was a very basic egg drop soup which I have often had in Chinese restaurants. It is a chicken broth based soup with beaten eggs dropped into it which cooks the eggs lightly. It is sort of like scrambled eggs in broth. There were some scallions mixed in as well, but nothing else. The flavor was quite elemental—the broth and egg was basically the extent of it, but I liked the simplicity of it.

For my main dish I went with a traditional Korean dish—bulgogi. Bulgogi is thinly sliced and marinated beef which is then usually grilled. The marinade can vary, but is soy based. I have to say, when mine came out (served with rice and sautéed veggies) I thought I wasn’t going to like it at all. It looked like the meat would be tough and chewy. I was pleasantly surprised by the tenderness of it. You could certainly taste the soy base in the marinade. As I ate it, the meat continued to remind me of something I had before in its texture—by the time I finished, I realized it was the consistency of the meat in Italian beef sandwiches. It had that almost lacy quality of well marbled beef that Italian beef has. Again, it was simple, and not amazing or anything, but better than I expected. The veggies on the side included mushrooms, broccoli and onions which were nice to add a little more flavor into the beef. The rice was nice and sticky, which is how I like it.

You are also served, simultaneously with the meal, several banchan, or Korean side dishes as well. I was served four. One was the most traditional and well-known dishes—kimchi which is cabbage that has been pickled and fermented. This one had a lot of spicy red pepper on it, but while it was spicy, was not out of control. A bit if it along with the meat was nice as well. Two of the other side dishes included quite a bit of the same red chili laced oil. One was cubes of turnip and the other zucchini slices. They were fine, but after awhile started to taste very similar to me because of that chili sauce. The fourth dish was a nice counterpoint—thin threads of more turnip, but marinated in a slightly sweet, slightly sour sauce. This was a refreshing change to the red chili.

I enjoyed my lunch, but nothing really stood out to me. The service was super efficient and friendly, and the place was doing a decent lunch business, but I wouldn’t be clamoring to go back. They also have the Korean barbeque tables where you cook food yourself which might be kind of fun to try as well. But honestly, I can’t quite figure out if I just don’t really like Korean food that much, or if I just haven’t had really good Korean yet. I am not sure. But so far neither of the Indy Korean places I have been to have tempted me back for a second visit. I would love to hear what you all think.

Mama’s House Korean Restaurant
8867 Pendleton Pike
Indy 46226

Mama's House on Urbanspoon


  1. I had lunch there after seeing an amazing article about it in Indianapolis Dine. It included recipes and beautiful pictures of the food. The picture that brought me there was a beef short rib and when I ordered them they looked totally different…and not in a good way. I was with a group and tasted almost a little bit of everything and I thought that everything was ok, but nothing that I would order if I went back.

    I think that it is difficult for a lot of some people to discern really good food v. a unique or new dining experience. I tried a lot of new things that day, but when I stood back and thought about it…the food just didn’t wow me.

    Then again, I might not like Korean food either.

  2. Well, I do really like Korean food. In fact, I trend away from a lot of others in that I prefer Korean over most any other asian food. I'm not really into sushi (it usually all kinds of just ends up tasting like soy and wasabi to me) and I usually find most Chinese too heavy and greasy. I find Bando and Mama's House pretty equivalent in quality, value and taste (if I have the story right, the owners at one point worked together). While I've had better homemade Korean food and in restaurants over in Seoul, I think these are pretty good offerings and a decent value.

    The inspiration behind NYC's Momofuku empire, David Chang, is a Korean-American. I'm hoping more Korean-inspired fusion restaurants are going to be a trend.

  3. I recommend trying Cafe Korea for lunch. I'm a big fan of Korean (well any Asian cuisine) and preferred CK over both Bando and Mama's. Lunch prices are reasonable and the bulgogi is very tender and flavorful. I also enjoyed the sides-- cucumbers with chili and some excellent kim chi.

  4. I wonder if many people (including perhaps yourself, Erin?) simply do not care that much for non-Western or Asian/Oriental food. One goes for the exoticism of it, maybe, but in the end it just simply isn't to your taste?

    Indy Grub, when you say <"I'm not really into sushi (it usually all kinds of just ends up tasting like soy and wasabi to me)"> it suggests to me that you are dredging every piece of sushi through lots of soy sauce and lots of wasabi. If so, then perhaps you should stop doing so. Sushi should be eaten with a MINIMAL touch of soy sauce and wasabi, IF ANY; the taste of the separate kinds of fish etc is definitely killed by too much soy+wasabi and all you WILL taste is the soy+wasabi. Try eating sushi next time without any soy or wasabi, chewing each piece (to be popped into your mouth as a whole piece) and concentrating on the taste of the fish. [This is why only the freshest and best fish is to be used for sushi and sashimi.]

  5. huiray-
    Actually, I am a big fan of Vietmanese food (when it is good) as well as Thai and various types of Chinese(again, when it is good). But the seasonings are all unique among these different cultures, and I just think some are going to appeal more than others. I just haven't figured out if it is Korean food in general, or the Korean food I have had (and yes, I am less experienced here than with other cuisines). Although I did eat some yummy Korean bbq in SF...

  6. Erin, so for the record, you do not like Korean food and.....SUSHI!!!!?? Ok, I had to make the joke.

  7. Try Bando before you write off Korean food completely. Mama's is good, but Bando is better. I will have to try the Cafe Korea that another commenter mentioned.

  8. Anon: don't worry, there really isn't any kind of food I will "write off." I am always up for trying things again. Was just talking about giving Bando a go, would love to know what your favorite dishes are there.

  9. I have to agree with Indy Amy. Korean Cafe is really solid. The pickles and kimchi are really good and made in house. The cooks at Pizzology are addicted to the place.

  10. Ok then, am putting Cafe Korea on the list... I stepped in a few months ago and thought it was cute. I just keep forgetting about it.

  11. Going through most of your stuff to try and find somewhere good and new to me to go for valentine's day and saw this and the other Korean place and had to comment ~ the Korean places here in Indy, to put it plainly, suck. Honestly even compared to other American Korean restaurants these places are all pretty mediocre and scarcely Korean ~ the ingredients and flavors are overly Americanized here. I've tried to find a good place for Korean food for when I get the cravings but after too many let downs, I just cook my own lol. Also BiBimBab like you had at the other place is really easy and simple to make at home ~ and bulgogi is really something only ordered in American Korean restaurants and is highly different from an actual Korean restaurant. So don't give up on Korean food, but you probably won't find a good one here in Indy!

    Thanks for all the great restaurant information though!

  12. Tae, thanks for your comment...A few months I did have the pleasure of eating a home cooked Korean meal by a Korean friend, and it was so much better than what I have had in town so far. But it also makes me want to continue the quest! If you want any recs for V-Day, let me know!

  13. I recently returned to Indy after living in Korean for a year. I have heard about Mama's from MANY people in town, but have yet to make my way over there. Nice to hear from you that they have a reasonable lunch menu, because their dinner menu is a little pricey for me at the moment. I know you aren't quite feeling the Korean vibe (yet), but what other Korean places have you tried in the greater Indy area? Thanks!

  14. there is Cafe Korea, E Miracle (which a Korean friend of mine likes), Bando