Restaurant Review: DENDEN Café Asiana

On a recent lunch outing, I dined at DENDEN with a couple of homies. A series of Instagram posts had made the place out to be quite good, so I became curious to try it. Though not the best Asian food I’ve ever eaten, this hipster, counter-serve outpost was very enjoyable and a great local find.

Tea

Let it be known that I have never been mesmerized by a cup of tea before…but this ginger variety was off the chain. Slightly spicy, ultra-fragrant, and just sweet enough, it was the perfect beverage to sip on a chilly January afternoon. Not to mention, it complemented the food pretty well. A must-try!

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Appetizer

We started off with an order of “monkey balls”, a sort of dumpling stuffed with mushrooms and spicy tuna. This unique combination greatly intrigued me, and while good, the “balls” just weren’t that memorable. The dumplings were well-cooked, but the flavors left something to be desired. I hardly tasted tuna, and the sauce was tasty but did nothing to enhance the dish.

Mains

Any lack in flavor from the appetizer was made up for in my main dish: albap. A Korean specialty, albap is essentially a rice bowl with veggies and fish roe (a seafood product comparable to caviar in size and texture). This version included sesame kimchi, fish cakes, pickles, and flying fish eggs. The bowl was simply an explosion of flavor. Every bite was different than the one before it; chewy and crunchy textures played with each other, as did fishy, nutty, acidic, and sweet flavors. The fishy-ness was prominent but not overwhelming, and the pickles were suiting, unexpected enhancement. My only complaint was that the superstar flavors weren’t completely cohesive with each other.

While I don’t recall the exact dish she ordered, Nadia’s lunch was a sort of rice bowl with veggies and pork. I sampled the pork and thought the flavors were balanced and interesting, but I feel like a whole bowl of it would’ve been boring.

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As with Nadia, I’m unsure of what exactly Beans ordered. Nevertheless, I’d describe it as a beef-based soup served with a side of white rice and assorted accompaniments. I didn’t try his, but the aroma it gave off was pleasant and it seemed super fresh.

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Overall Impressions:

  • Innovative menu with memorable items
  • Fairly priced
  • Slight disconnect between concept and execution

The Verdict:

4stars

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