During Hidden Gems Week, the Observer food and drink writers are celebrating an abundance of diverse, delicious restaurants and bars around Dallas, places that don’t often (or ever) get mentioned by big-name food media, trendsetters, bloggers or chefs. We’re taking you outside of the ordinary to help you discover something new.
In cold-weather months, a big bowl of nourishing, energizing soup is one of the best meals around. Arirang, a Korean restaurant in Carrollton that won this year’s Best of Dallas award for Best Korean Restaurant, does almost nothing else. At lunchtime, the tables quickly fill up with customers slurping up exceptional soups from large metal bowls.
The whole menu, in fact, is nothing but noodle bowls, noodle soups and dumplings. The noodles taste utterly scrumptious no matter what they’re in, with the slightly springy, chewy-in-a-good-way texture of fresh, handmade dough. Try a noodle bowl with spicy eggplant sauce, which is served on the side for good reason: At first taste, the eggplant sauce seems mild, but the spice level keeps growing until, halfway through the meal, the sheer heat is narrowing your peripheral vision. Diabolically, the only way to put out the flames is to take another bite.
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Pork-and-cabbage, tofu or vegetable dumplings are available in three sizes, ranging from delicate, two-bite mandu to huge, face-stuffing turnovers that arrive just three to an order.
As good as all the dumplings are, including a hot variety stuffed with the face-punching house kimchi, the noodle soups are the star of the show here, all arriving with chopped carrot, cucumber, scallion, seaweed and herbs, plus a choice of hearty broth: seaweed, chicken, anchovies or a creamy, savory sesame.
The fare at Arirang is comfort food that speaks to people from around the globe. And, for the most indecisive customers, there’s the ultimate combo: a soup featuring both noodles and dumplings, in which the dumplings quickly fall apart, spilling pork and pork broth for even deeper flavor. This restaurant is so good that it can become habit-forming — and its short menu can become a quest to try everything.
Arirang Korean Kitchen, 2625 Old Denton Road, No. 556, Carrollton. 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday.