Friday, May 24, 2013

The Road, Episode 31: Midori Japanese & Korean Restaurant [Eating Our Way Down Nolensville Pike]

Posted By on Fri, May 24, 2013 at 2:09 PM

Pardon the Hanson pun, but mmm-bap!
  • Pardon the Hanson pun, but mmm-bap!
Welcome to The Road, my column in which I'm going to attempt — key word: attempt — to eat at every non-chain restaurant on Nolensville Pike between I-440 and the county line. I'll readily admit that even though I live right off Nolensville — Paragon Mills represent! — and revel in the diversity and quantity of its eateries, I have barely scratched the surface of what the strip has to offer. But now I'm going to rectify that, and hopefully you'll join for what's likely to be a wild ride.

Episode 31: Midori Japanese & Korean Restaurant
Address: 5628 Nolensville Pike
Phone: 831-1203

I’ve been saving this one for a, well, un-special occasion. And the occasion? We needed dinner AND paper towels, so a trip down to Big Lots and a stop at Midori Japanese & Korean Restaurant was in order. If Seoul Garden is the fancy Korean spot that we go to when it’s time to celebrate big victories, Midori is where my wife and I go to celebrate little victories, like making it through another workweek. It’s an unassuming spot with a really friendly staff and a low-key atmosphere, a little gem tucked into a strip mall-within-a-strip mall.

For the unfamiliar, Midori is in the shopping center catty-cornered between the Lowes and the Big Lots/Office Max at the corner Nolensville and Old Hickory, way back in that two story building that you can just barely see from the road. The facade is simple, the neighbors uninteresting, the whole locale just another anonymous Nashville shopping center. But when you walk through the door into the tiny but awesome pagoda-ish foyer — best foyer on Nolensville? only foyer on Nolensville? — there’s a sudden change in vibe, from distant and innominate to friendly and inviting.

The decor is simple, some hand-painted plum trees on the wall, the aforementioned foyer, a nice wooden sushi bar. The clientele runs the gamut — when we walked in it was dominated by grown-ups who had clearly just punched the clock, and by the time we left it was dominated young adults. The only real complaint about the meal was that The Most Awkward Double Date Ever was seated next to us, and I was almost so busy cringing/laughing that I couldn’t eat. Clearly not this is not the fault of the restaurant, but damn, was it distracting. It was a trainwreck and I pity the poor girl that was paired with Talkative Racist Dude. Poor, poor girl.

The food was, as always, delicious and fast. The bonchons — the spread of sides that comes with your meal — were fresh and flavorful (slather anything in red pepper and I’m stoked), with the kimchi in particular having this end-note snap that felt like a time-delayed cabbage explosion. I ordered the bulgogi, because I can’t say no to bulgogi, and it was delicious, spicy, beefy with this clean, subtle sweetness on the finish that is still making me smile. My wife ordered the dulsot bibimbap — egg, meat and veggies over rice in hot stone bowl — because she loves crispy rice, and the only time I ever make it is if I leave the stove on by accident. It’s one of those dishes that is impossible not to fall in love with, and the folks at Midori serve it up right. It’s perfect for those un-special occasions.

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