It began with Mama Kim’s. The Thayer Street stalwart acquainted us with what Korean food has to offer, but however glorious the small portions may have been, there was always something missing – the quarter-pounder-with-cheese to Mama Kim’s slider, if you will. There was also Juniper, offering up FroYo a la Korea (betcha didn’t know it’s Starcraft-level huge over there). Still, there was a Korean restaurant-sized hole in Providence. Ethnic cuisine Gods be praised, the family that owns Juniper finally caught on and opened the traditional Korean eatery, Soban, this July.
You probably already noticed Soban’s new presence due to its familiar location. It’s housed at 272 Thayer, the former home of Xtreme Pizza and Wings and Dugout Grill. The former was clearly a little too xtreme for Thayer to handle, and the latter…well that whole thing was a little sketchy.
Both tenants came and left in the span of a few years, so Soban was bound to be better. And I’m thrilled to say that the third time’s the charm. My AFBFF (Asian Food Best Friend Forever) ordered four items, and each was fantastic. The winner was definitely my stone pot bimimbap, a classic Korean dish consisting of rice, chili sauce and sautéed veggies. Soban’s version came with the option to choose your meat (I went with the spicy chicken) and a still-sizzling pot that slowly turned your chili-tastic rice into chili-tastic fried rice over the course of your meal. So yeah, that was awesome. Other highlights included the sweet and spicy (though a little too heavily fried) Soban wings and the Tuna kimbap (Korean sushi). Oh yeah, and the FREE MISO SOUP. If there’s anything you take from this post, it’s that Soban has FREE, BOTTOMLESS MISO SOUP.
I spent a short time partying working in Seoul this summer, so I can affirm that Soban’s a pretty authentic place, right down to the metal water cups (if you’ve been to Korea you know what I’m talking about). The only thing that didn’t match up with the local eateries of Seoul was the price range. Granted we had planned a feast fit for kings, but my friend and I still paid a little more than we had expected. I suggest going with a single entrée or the buffet option (but I can’t vouch for the frugality of the latter). Or do what we did and indulge yourself a little. After you’ve Tasted the World enough (and you have), you deserve an authentic ethnic cuisine experience— Soban has emerged as a perfect place to treat yourself to one.