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Lunch, Anyone? Coreanos

Korean Mexican fusion restaurant in Allston

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The idea of pairing Korean and Mexican cuisine seems somewhat counterintuitive: different ingredients, different spices. But the “KoMex” food trend, a mashup of the two—already well established in New York and Los Angeles—has been making inroads in the Boston food scene and the demand is only growing. First to appear was the Gogi on the Block food truck, followed by Olitoki in Allston. The latest entry is Coreanos, also in Allston, a nod to the demand for Korean fusion.

Coreanos—Spanish for Korean—opened last June in what had been Wan’s Al’s Deli. The tiny eatery (with a big take-out business) has attracted a loyal following, drawn by its distinctive menu, generous servings, and reasonable prices.

As fans of the KoMex craze, we stopped by on a recent weekday for a late lunch and were a little surprised that it fairly empty, given that it seats only a dozen. But if you’re thinking about going on a weekend evening, you might consider take-out or delivery, as Coreanos tends to draw big crowds, especially as the night progresses.

The Coreanos spicy pork taco.

The Coreanos tacos come in five varieties, like the spicy pork taco (above), offering a Korean twist on a Mexican staple.

The menu’s left side lists Korean fusion dishes, among them kimchi quesadillas ($7.95)—12-inch flour tortillas stuffed with pan-fried kimchi, cheese, and a choice of marinated meat (spicy pork, bulgogi beef, miso chicken, or kalbi short ribs), topped with cilantro lime sauce and spicy mayo—and kimchi fritas ($6.95)—bowls of tender french fries smothered in cheese and pan-fried kimchi, drizzled in spicy mayo and cilantro lime sauce, and finished with a sunny-side up egg topped with cilantro. For a couple of extra bucks, you can top your fritas with one of the marinated meats.

We opted for the chicken poppers entrée ($9.95), crisp yet tender bite-sized fried chicken on a bed of crunchy french fries, finished with an assortment of sauces. It was a standout—imagine a more sophisticated version of fast-food chicken nuggets. We also ordered the spicy pork taco ($3.50)—two corn tortillas loaded with ginger slaw, cilantro lime sauce, mayo, sesame seeds, and pork served with sides of juicy limes and hot jalapeños—which literally dripped flavor. The tacos’ flavors complemented each other well, and the pork packed just the right amount of heat. They were both incredibly tasty—and messy—as several crumpled napkins attested.

The menu’s right side features traditional Korean dishes like kimbab ($7.95), vegetables mixed with a choice of marinated meat or kimchi cheese wrapped in rice and seaweed, and bibimbap ($10.95), sautéed vegetables and a choice of marinated meat or tofu, served on a bed of rice and finished off with a sunny-side up egg.

The Coreanos pan-fried rice bowl

The Coreanos bowl: pan-fried rice bowl topped with sauces, vegetables, and a choice of protein.

The Coreanos bowl ($9.95) is another dish worth recommending. The house-made rice bowl is packed with carrots and onions, with a choice of marinated meat (or substitute tofu) and a spicy mayo and cilantro lime sauce.

You can’t beat Coreanos for value. The food is as tasty as it is pretty, and the servings are generous: for $10 most people will bring home leftovers. Owners Jina and Yongsik Kim and their son, Alex, go out of the way to offer friendly service (we were on a first-name basis after our third visit). One trip and you’ll see why so many are jumping on the KoMex bandwagon.

Coreanos, 172 Brighton Ave., Allston, is open Sunday to Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. to 9:45 p.m., and Thursday to Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 10:45 p.m.; phone: 617-208-8822. The restaurant does not deliver, but takeout is available. All major credit cards are accepted. Take an MBTA Green Line B trolley to Harvard Avenue.

This is part of a weekly series featuring Boston lunch spots of interest to the BU community. If you have any suggestions for places we should feature, leave them in the Comment section below.

Manny Gomez can be reached at mannygo@bu.edu.

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