Secret Garden: Korean & Japanese Restaurant

By Karen Hor

The place to go for great sake, spice and service

OK, you deprived, M Street-dependent SU students, it’s time for a mouth-watering upgrade. Lo and behold, I have found the secret Asian garden of savory (and authentic) bi-bim-bab, kimchee jji gee, sake, unagi rolls, and more! Come on, with half of Marshall Street filled with Asian restaurants, these dishes are far from foreign. Secret Garden, a Korean & Japanese restaurant, is only a 10-minute drive away from main campus. You might as well drop in for dinner after pumping gas.

I was engaging in my usual weekend routine when I drove down Erie Boulevard to pet some cats and play with ferrets at a local PETCO, when suddenly, an urge for exoticism and good cuisine hit me. I thought, “Wow, I really need something spicy in my mouth.” It is chow time, baby—Korean style. My boyfriend drove to a restaurant with an unsurprising display of a typical Korean house as its logo, called Secret Garden. I wasn’t convinced. There is even a Han’s Oriental Market next to the restaurant. How obvious can they get?

Hesitant, I walked into Secret Garden restaurant and my nostrils expanded 150 percent its normal size. I looked around at the meticulously placed tables of twos and fours, comfortable booths, and even a sushi bar complete with two sushi chefs ready to serve in their kickass hats and aprons covered with Japanese characters. Lucky for me, Secret Garden was made for double duty with Korean and Japanese food. Waiters quickly seated us at a clean (very rare) and comfortable (extremely rare) booth seat.

The menu featured over 80 dishes to choose from, not including appetizers and snacks. “Mild” broth: no. “Spicy” broth: nope. “Very spicy,” “very hot” broth: oh heck yeah, I’m getting that one. The dish called, “Yook Gae Jang,” consists of finely shredded beef with scallions, bean sprout, and mushroom in very hot and spicy beef broth. For a price of $13.95, I knew my two-hour shift at Brockway dining hall would pay off. When the dish came, the soup was so red it looked like a less pasty version of tomato soup. I scooped some rice and dipped my spoon into the soup and took my first bite. The chefs in the kitchen answered my hunger prayers and they will soon answer yours, too. The menu also has a section for vegetarian dishes in a wide range of spice levels, varied Japanese dishes from raw fish to udon noodle soup, and a select list of beers and sake. I highly recommend the marinated barbecues – which run from as low as $15.95 to as high as $22.95 per order – but only if your wallet is as willing as you are to immerse into true Korean eatery culture. If you’re not the type to eat something called “Bee Bim Naeng Myun,” there are more Americanized Asian dishes like “Chicken Fried Rice,” “Beef Fried Rice,” and “Shrimp Fried Rice.” Secret Garden is a place for all.

I didn’t mind the mandatory 15 percent gratuity they stamped on my check. Service was top-notch and the catering was as visually alluring to look at as it was to eat. I left feeling 10 pounds heavier, not kidding. Next time you’re pumping gas or visiting PETCO on an empty stomach, stop by Secret Garden.

Located on 2731 Erie Blvd East. Visit their website for a full menu. Monday: 11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. Tuesday – Thursday: 11:30 a.m. – 3 p.m., 5 p.m. – 10 p.m. Friday – Saturday: 11:30 a.m. – 11 p.m. Sunday: 1 p.m. – 9 p.m.