Transport yourself to a magical land of inexpensive Korean delicacies
ChoCho's distinguishes itself from the other cubby-like eateries in the Porter Exchange in two ways. First, it captures the fun, food-court-like energy of the adjacent noodle shops and sushi bars, but manages to feel more like a restaurant than a lunch counter. And, unlike at some neighboring spots, it is not possible to have a terrible meal here.
ChoCho's began as a soon-du-boo house, the first in Boston to offer a range of the spicy, red, still-bubbling Korean stews ($9.95–$10.95). The menu has since gone pan-Asian with such offerings as the ubiquitous pad Thai ($7.95), though its backbone is still Korean. Many specialties are available as either main dishes or sides, like the barbecued beef bulgoki ($5.95). Other perks include crab Rangoon with carrot-studded filling ($4.95), ginseng tea ($1), and the option of brown rice. The shumai ($3.95) are as soft and delightful as you'll find anywhere, served with a creamy mustard sauce.
Kimchi pops up all over the menu, appearing in fried rice ($7.95), soon du boo ($9.95), as a side ($1.50), and in pajon ($7.95). The pajon is perhaps its best conduit, combining the comfort of a pancake with the intensity of the hot-and-sour kimchi. Each bite contains the perfect ratio of pleasantly rubbery cabbage, crispy fried crust, and fluffy center. Why we don't eat stacks of these for breakfast, I have no idea.
Also of note is the vegetable maandu gook ($9.95), an enormous bowl of dumplings and broth with more flavor than you'd expect from a clear liquid. It could easily make a meal for two or send you home with sloshy leftovers, and it comes with three sides including — surprise — kimchi.
Almost as good is the shrimp tempura udon ($6.95). This big-portion soup features alarmingly colorful fish cakes and tofu skin so good you'll wonder why they don't make the whole tofu like this. Feel like (barely) splurging? Order the lobster-laced New England soon du boo ($10.95).
ChoCho's, located in the Porter Exchange, 1815 Mass Ave, in Cambridge, is open Monday through Saturday, from 11 am to 8:30 pm; and on Sunday, from 11:30 am to 8:30 pm. Call 617.868.4246.
: On The Cheap
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