Even if you’re familiar with Korean fast-casual, there are a few unexpected combinations at Marinade, a young “Asian Fusion Café & Kitchen” on the corner of a small strip mall on Livingston Street in Norwood. A friend and I stopped in there last month to refuel for (just a bit more) competitive holiday retail. After losing any trace of comfort and joy on line at HomeGoods, Korean double-fried chicken wings were almost medically necessary.
Marinade prides itself on wings, deservedly, and the big chalkboard overhanging the front counter actually shows a fairly short menu: Korean fried chicken (regular or “crispy-fried,” wings or drumsticks or mixed, with your choice of soy garlic, spicy soy garlic, or Yangyum Korean red chili glaze), a section called “Korean Fusion” (Korean protein such as bulgogi barbecue, done as a panini or wrap), Korean rice bowls (with a similar choice of protein and unexpected fusion options like mozzarella), salads, Omu-Noodle (more on that shortly) and fries.
After placing our order, we sat down at a big communal table for a short wait as a kitchen somewhere in the back put our food—and more than a few takeout orders—together. As we peeled off five or six layers, respectively, we took in the casual café space: modern, open, well lit (the sleek minimalist bare-bulb fixtures had a strong glow). This seems to be a popular takeout/delivery spot, so seating in the café space itself was ample. There were a few big tables, as well as window counter seating that would make a nice spot for a solo lunch.
Even with the brisk takeout business, our food was prompt compared to some restaurants that will let you sit while endless takeout/GrubHub/Seamless orders are hustled out. Maybe it was the dishes we ordered, but the menu veered toward the conservative side of fusion. Our spicy soy garlic Korean chicken wings ($6.50 for 6) delivered on the double-fried promise with extra juiciness and a crispy-thin skin lacquered (not too generously, no extra napkins needed here) with a garlickly soy glaze that had just a hint of sweetness and heat. The surprise here was the pickled pink (beet-spiked) radish and cucumber garnish. Crunchy, sweet, tangy—it was clearly meant to be a refreshing palate cleanser; we shoveled it down like it was ice cream. We decided that next time we’d try the Yangyum glaze.
Wings dispatched, we tucked into our Omu-Noodle ($8.50, enough for two). A first for both of us, it’s a fusion play on Omurice, a fusion dish consisting of an omelet with stir-fried rice what traces its origins to Japan in the 1970s, and has since apparently became popular in Korean cafes. At Marinade, the Omu-Noodle was a big, warm, soft omelet with stir-fried noodles instead of rice, topped with sweet-savory soy glaze, scallions, and umami-packed bonito flakes (you will shamelessly vacuum them up). If fusion can get clunky, this was simple and richly savory.
We finished with Kimchi Fries, a serious caloric value at $6.95 and arguably the world’s best Asian fusion hangover remedy (if you’re in the market for that sort of thing). Conceptually hybridizing loaded Jersey diner fries and Quebecois gravy-drenched poutine, these were meaty, crispy, twice-fried fries studded with bacon, scallions, melted cheese, and moderate-potency kimchi. Neither of us were hungover physically, but even psychologically (holiday retail), something about the fries was just plain restorative.
The check was nominal: $28 for two, with leftovers. The business is young, though their focus on a short menu, good service, and steady takeout speaks of experience. With the Super Bowl coming up, I might consider putting in a big spicy garlic and Yangyum wings order, with a massive side of that pickled radish.
Marinade Asian Fusion Café & Kitchen is located at 544 Livingston Street in Norwood. They offer free delivery within a five-mile radius for a $20 minimum order, and do plenty of takeout. 201-660-7911.Click here to leave a comment