Secret Garden Korean Restaurant (Sunnyvale)

I love Korean food. Growing up in Hawaii, we had our favorite Korean restaurants (Gina’s comes to mind) to get our fix of meat jun, bbq chicken, and kal bi. Here in the Bay Area, there is a high concentration of Korean restaurants in the Sunnyvale / Santa Clara area. Too many to try all by ourselves, so we asked some of our Korean friends to recommend a place to go for lunch.

They recommended Secret Garden Korean Restaurant. It’s in a little strip mall in Sunnyvale on El Camino Real near Lawrence Expressway, across from the Starving Musician shop. When we arrived at 12:30, there wasn’t much of a crowd and we were seated right away.

Typical of Korean restaurants, they loaded our table up with pan chan (side dishes). Here is the won bok kim chee. This wasn’t sharp or overly salty like others I’ve had. It’s definitely been fermenting for a while – the won bok cabbage is quite soft. I also liked their daikon kim chee.

Annie ordered the Soon Dubu Jigae, a tofu hot pot. It comes to the table boiling hot. There’s pieces of pork mixed in with the soft tofu and green onions. The dish was really wonderful – I loved the bonito flavor in the broth. It wasn’t too light or too heavy – just perfectly balanced.

For the kids, we got the fried mackerel fillets. It’s not like the normal grilled mackerel you get at Japanese restaurants. This one looked like it was breaded in rice flour and then deep fried. The crust was crispy but yielded to a spoon to reveal moist white flesh. The fish was fishy as mackerel should be but not masked by salt. The kids were not the only ones who enjoyed this dish 😉

I got a bi bim naeng myun. Thin, chewy buckwheat noodles (different from Japanese soba-style noodles) served cold and mixed with julienned slices of radish and cucumber, thin slices of Korean pear, a couple of slices of beef, and half a boiled egg, swimming in a sweet and tangy Korean chili sauce. It’s not as spicy as it looks, though I did start to sweat a little. I almost didn’t want to let Annie have some of my dish.

This was the best Korean food I’ve had in a while and, while the prices are slightly higher than what we’re used to, the quality and flavor are worth coming back for.

Any favorite Korean restaurants in your neighborhood?

Aloha, Nate

4 thoughts on “Secret Garden Korean Restaurant (Sunnyvale)”

  1. Those dishes look delicious. I haven’t found a quality Korean restuarant yet, but I’m sure there’s one around here somewhere.

  2. Love your blog! We’ve been to Secret Garden many times. It’s one of my husband’s favorites. One of our friends really likes Korean BBQ which is on the same side of El Camino near Pomeroy. Another friend recommends the one on the corner of Lafayette and El Camino(can’t remember the name) for their sizzling spicy BBQ pork. I like Korean Palace on W. San Carlos. But my favorite is Kim Chee II in Kaimuki! 😉

  3. I usually head to Tofu House at Santa Clara for my tofu hotpot fix! Hmmm…once again, thx for your recommendation. I think this should be near my place 😀

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