404 Marlton Pike E.
Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
With my love for Banh Mi no secret, I began to think about other types of Asian fusion sandwiches. I was planning on making Korean cheesesteaks, and taking all of the credit, but the Koagie beat me to the punch. Well to be more exact, Myung Ga beat me to the punch (and apparently a place on N 5th street beat them to the punch). Myung Ga even trademarked the Koagie name, so you know they mean business. A trip to Cherry Hill was in order.
Inside, it looks similar to many other Korean restaurants, but maybe a bit cleaner and newer. It is located in the Sawmill strip mall, and not nearly as hard to find & access (you can make a u-turn right after it) as other eating destinations in South Jersey.
Remarkably, the food photos maintained the traditional orange glow that I have become accustomed to when taking pictures inside of Korean restaurants.
The banchan were swiftly brought out upon sitting down, and the server promptly opened our wine as well (it's a BYO). There weren't too many other tables in there, which could be expected for a rainy Tuesday night, but tables came and went. The chef's wife was more than gracious to speak with us, and explain every question we had about the menu with superior knowledge and enthusiasm. She also explained that the special was Korean fried chicken, which they apparently had just started last week. Be still my heart. I was literally rambling on about said fried chicken on the ride over the bridge. Needless to say, a four piece was ordered with two different sauces, in addition to the kimchi pancake, and seaweed salad appetizers, followed by three different Koagies, and a Yue Kae Jang. This is to say nothing of the seven banchan that came out on the house. Whew, what was I getting into?
Two of the more interesting banchan were dried sweetened seaweed, and the fermented chilled cabbage soup below.
The fried chicken consisted of two drumsticks and two wings, breaded and fried, and then sauced, half in hot sauce, and the other half in honey sesame ginger. The wings are marinated before they are fried so that the meat itself really retains the flavor. The breading stays ultra crispy, despite being smothered in rich sauce, and is so airy, I was picking every piece off of the wing that I could. The hot sauce was spicy, but not too hot, and the sweeter honey sesame wings were a nice savory contrast.
The seaweed salad was tasty, and ample. The pancake was also well cooked, and quite tasty, but our table was so full of plates that I forgot to get a picture before I scarfed it down.
So at this point many people would throw in the towel. It was certainly more than enough to satisfy everyone at the table. But what would be the fun in that? When the Koagies arrived, I was surprised by their bulk. They were seriously as well packed as any good cheesesteak, and the bun was legit. Hefty, able to stand up the the serious ingredients inside, yet still fluffy enough to make eating this sandwich a breeze. A nice coating of sesame seeds was well placed, as both Philly sandwich rolls, and Korean dishes showcase these unsung flavor enhancers. They were also served with a dish of Koagie sauce. I was instantly impressed, as I love extra sauce, as well as being able to increase the sauce ratio on my sandwich at will. The sauce, which is also lightly on the sandwich, is a creamy, sesame(ish) flavor that goes quite well with the large roll. Mine absolutely did not need it, but I could see the potential for the sandwich to become dry, and they preempted it. Well done. According to the pictures I had looked at before hand, I figured that the spicy cucumbers were stock on the sandwiches, but they were actually served on the side. Spicy pork before and after below.
Although I really, really liked all three Koagies that we ordered, I think the spicy pork was my favorite (no surprise here). The pork was very flavorful, a bit of spice and very rich. The fried onions throughout and the sesame sauce with sliced cabbage on the bottom was just great.
The beef bulgogi was basically delicious marinated rib-eye cheesesteak meat, served in the same style. So very tasty. Definitely my second favorite Koagie of the night.
The BBQ chicken was also very good, I just happened to like the others just a bit better. You really can't go wrong with ordering anything here, and I was thoroughly impressed.
Just to keep them honest, we ordered an authentic Korean dish, that the server even had to ask why we ordered it, as many (white?) people don't really order it/know about. I myself would not know about Yue Kae Jang if I hadn't eaten it many times over with a friend who previously worked in a Korean restaurant. The soup is always served VERY hot, and is a comforting spicy bowl of glass noodles, beef, mushrooms, green onion, egg and soup base. So good. They did not disappoint. It was everything I have come to expect from this delicacy, and I would definitely order it at a later time, if I wasn't so overwhelmed with their Koagies.
Afterward we finished with the coconut snowflake desert, which was kind of like a shaved ice the chef had made himself. They also gave us these tiny, shot sized bottles of liquid with our bill, which tasted like key lime pie (in my opinion).
Overall, this place is incredibly reasonable, well staffed, and the Koagies were everything I had dreamed of and more. They were twice as much as a Banh Mi, but you got three times the food, and all of the ingredients (meat ESPECIALLY) were far superior. There were no weird chewy pieces, nor anything hard when biting through these huge sandwiches. I say this often, but I can't wait to get back to this place.