Simple, good Korean food. This refreshingly straightforward approach to cuisine is always a welcome sight in a city that idolizes the elaborate and uber-trendy. In this vein, Giwa is one of the few Philly restaurants that truly delivers as advertised.
Situated on the corner of 16th and Sansom, this three-week-old establishment offers a wide range of Korean staples that won't put a dent in your pocketbook (most entr‚es are under $10). Although seating is rather limited, the interior boasts polished oak tables and vintage stone walls, a d‚cor that gives off a modern, authentic feel. Service is consistently prompt, as Giwa makes good on its promise of gourmet Korean fast food.
On our visit, we found a diverse menu featuring elements of Korean barbeque as well as more traditional fare. The first dish out of the kitchen was the bulgogi ($9.50). This thinly sliced marinated rib eye was expertly saut‚ed with the help of mushrooms, carrots and onions. Thankfully, the super tender beef was not stringy in texture, although the dish would have been better served with a more potent sauce. Next, we devoured the dak bulgogi ($8.95). This dish alone is worth the trip to Center City, as the spicy chicken marinade evokes thoughts of summer with its smoked, barbeque finish. This sweet glaze brought out the moistness of the diced chicken breast and was served over a diverse bed of vegetables.
To cap off this "fast food" experience (to their credit, every dish came out in under five minutes), I was tempted by the Soon Dug Bu ($8.95), an old Korean standby. This super-spicy, soft tofu stew combined shrimp, clams, squash and Korean cabbage in a sizzling soup bowl. Liberally add rice to the bowl to enjoy the dish in its most natural state, all the while letting the rice soak in the whirlwind of flavor.
With a price range of $4.95-12.95 and a delivery service on the way, Giwa's unique approach to dining may help it outlast the never-ending stream of new Center City eateries. A quick cab ride from campus, dinner at Giwa will leave you with a content stomach and just that much more time on Saturday night for a movie.