The Pork Rice Noodle dish at Ryu's Kitchen on Hobson Road was a play on pad Thai.
Garlic chicken from Ryu's Kitchen on Hobson Road.
Spicy kimchi pork from Ryu's Kitchen on Hobson Road.
House-made kimchi at Ryu's Kitchen on Hobson Road.
Spicy Chicken Soup from Ryu's Kitchen on Hobson Road.
Chicken Bulgogi at Ryu's Kitchen on Hobson Road.
The Spicy Vegetable Shrimp at Ryu's Kitchen on Hobson Road.
Beef Bulgogi at Ryu's Kitchen on Hobson Road.
The walls of Ryu's Kitchen on Hobson Road have uplifting messages on them.
Grilled Pork Belly at Ryu's Kitchen on Hobson Road.
Ryu's Kitchen on Hobson Road.
Pork and seafood dumplings from Ryu's Kitchen on Hobson Road.
The seafood dumplings at Ryu's Kitchen on Hobson Road were stuffed with crab salad, squid, shrimp and tofu.
Sunday, November 12, 2017 1:00 am
New Korean restaurant has inspiring dishes
RYAN DUVALL | The Journal Gazette
Out of a possible five
It isn't often that a restaurant truly inspires me.
There was that first taste of broth at Saigon, my first papusa at El Salvador and the pavlova at Cerulean.
Now Ryu's Kitchen joins the list as I found unexpected delights in this little Korean-inspired spot on Hobson Road.
The dish that I loved the most was the simply named Pork Rice Noodle. It had wide noodles, carrots, onions and thinly sliced and super-tender pork shoulder. It was topped with fresh cilantro and fried garlic, which added a lot of flavor.
There was a distinct, addictive flavor coming from every bite that had me struggling to figure out what it was. Fish sauce? Soy?
I was so mesmerized, I had to ask owner Joohyun Riddle.
Joohyun, whose maiden name is Ryu, is a native of Seoul, South Korea, who came to the U.S. to go to school not long after meeting her eventual husband, Josh Riddle, a Marion native who was in the military at the time. She embraced the food culture here, she said, and always wanted to have a restaurant. When Josh got a job at VA Northern Indiana Healthcare System in Fort Wayne, she got her chance.
The Pork Rice Noodle was an homage to pad Thai, which is a dish Joohyun loves. It did not have the egg pad Thai usually has, but what gave it that unique flavor was the oil it was stir-fried in, which Joohyun infuses with green onions.
That oil worked magically on the Spicy Vegetable Shrimp, too. This dish had thin, clear noodles made from sweet potato starch, which gave them a subtle sweet flavor. They worked well with the sesame-infused gochujang sauce, vegetables and nicely browned shrimp. Those small shrimp still had tails, which should have probably been removed to make eating the dish easier, but it was still fabulous.
The Grilled Pork Belly was nearly as good as the Pork Rice Noodle but did not have the same complexity. It was lightly seasoned with soy so the fatty, paper-thin pork belly stood front and center. This lettuce-wrap dish came with a little gochujang and bean paste to smear on each leaf to your liking.
Ryu's also had more traditional Korean dishes, such as bulgogi.
I actually liked the chicken more than the beef, which surprised me. Both meats were tender, flavorful and had the right signature Korean barbecue flavor from Joohyun's beer-infused sauce, which she said takes nearly two hours to make. Both had plenty of crunchy cabbage and sprouts, but the finely diced chicken was spread more evenly so every bite was perfect.
A little side of housemade kimchi comes with each dinner (not lunch), along with a salad and a pork dumpling. I liked that Ryu's fermented cabbage was not super spicy. It had heat, don't kid yourself, but it did not make you drain your drink.
And when that kimchi was stir-fried with some of that pork shoulder in the Spicy Kimchi Pork, it created another masterpiece. This dish had a lot of heat thanks to some extra gochujang. It also had onions and fresh cabbage mixed in with the meat and kimchi and was topped with fresh green onion. Paired with rice, it was simple and satisfying.
The Spicy Chicken Soup was less satisfying. It had stringy, slow-cooked chicken throughout, along with sprouts, green onions and eagle fern – a traditional Korean bean-like ingredient – and glass noodles in a deep red broth. It was not extremely spicy, but I found the broth to be a bit oily. It also needed more noodles.
The two fried chicken dishes I sampled were pretty lackluster but would be great options for those intimidated by some of the stir-fry dishes.
The Sunny Chili Chicken was described as “fried, seasoned chicken breast with sweet and spicy chili sauce.” That chicken was fried in a tempura-style batter that was quite nice, but it was not coated in sauce like I expected. The sauce – which had a hint of vinegar – was on the side for dipping. The Garlic Chicken was the same dish with a different sauce. Both sauces were tasty, but these were pretty much chicken dippers instead of complex, unique offerings like most of the other items Ryu's served.
The fried pork dumplings were tasty, and I liked that they, and the seafood dumplings and vegetable spring rolls, were priced singularly so adding one was affordable.
The seafood dumplings had crab salad, tofu and little bits of squid and shrimp in its filling, which was similar to crab rangoon. The spring rolls were crispy and enjoyable, but their filling was mostly cabbage and sort of mundane.
There was nothing mundane about the beverage choices at Ryu's. Two types of iced tea were offered and I had a hard time deciding which one was better. The plum tea was very sweet and the plum was prominent. It was almost like drinking fruit juice. The creamy misu tea was also pretty sweet, but its somewhat nutty flavor was more tea-like.
Ryu's Kitchen is a small place, but the Riddles have dressed it up and given it a friendly vibe. There are positive messages such as “Find Joy,” and “Live Happily” on the walls, and it has a sleek and modern minimalist decor.
The service was stellar. It is clear that Joohyun and her employees truly appreciate those who try the restaurant, which is still in its infancy.
Restaurant: Ryu's Kitchen
Address: 2461 Hobson Road
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Credit cards: Yes
Menu: Pork dumplings (79 cents), seafood dumpling (99 cents), spring rolls (69 cents), kimchi ($1.99), pork rice noodle ($9.99), spicy vegetable shrimp ($11.99), pork belly ($11.99), bulgogi ($10.50), kimchi pork ($10.99), chicken soup ($11.50), iced tea ($1.99)
Rating breakdown: Food: ** 1/2 (3-star maximum); atmosphere: * (1 maximum), service: * (1 maximum)
Ryan DuVall is a restaurant critic for The Journal Gazette. This review is based on two unannounced visits. The Journal Gazette pays for all meals. Email him at email@example.com; call at 461-8130. Past reviews can be found at www.journalgazette.net. You can follow him on Twitter @DiningOutDuVall.