Pangaea Grill is a little bit everything – casual yet stylish, blending homestyle Korean dishes with tacos, poke, burgers, pasta and Old World standards on a menu that spans breakfast, lunch and dinner.
And that’s just the way owner Mira Porges likes things. “I love fusion food,” she says, explaining that with the ease of global travel and the internet, culinary boundaries have been erased. “It feels like we’re on one continent. People aren’t afraid to try something new.”
Or old, for that matter. The Kalbi – Korean short ribs – is an adaptation of her grandmother’s recipe. After resting for two to three days in a bath of soy, ginger, garlic and a slew of other ingredients, the marinade becomes of the meat. The earthiness, the grassy rasp, the caramelized warmth, the bittersweet and smoky char all seem to belong to each tender flank of beef. Alongside is a ramekin of kimchi made in house that brings a searing flame dampened by a fruity sweetness and brazen tang – nuanced yet powerful, and at first glance too potent for the meat. However, when taken with the ribs the fire flickers and dies down, leaving behind a cure apple sensation that complements the beef nicely.
Porges just laughs. “Kimchi goes really well with every Korean food,” she says.
Another Korean touch is the kimbap roll, in this case filled with Spam nestled in a downy pillow of scrambled egg that calms the pork product’s notorious briney bite. With a toasted seaweed wrap lending a husky, acrid note, these can be addictive.
Chef Carlos Reyes handles the family Korean recipes neatly. And he brings his own experience to the rest of the menu. It’s a familiar list, featuring pan seared crab cakes, filet mignon, rack of lamb, duck breast and the like. The latter is sliced and fanned around a cornbread muffin with whole kernels that echo the sweetness of the bread. The bird itself is lean and a tad on the firm side, but it’s still a welcome fit to the bright and rustic cherry reduction pooled on the plate.
There’s evident care in the sauces – Madeira for the filet, green peppercorn alongside a ribeye, mustard-mint with the rack of lamb. “Every sauce, he doesn’t let anybody else make it,” Porges says of the chef. That’s likely a good thing. The ginger-lime dressing for lettuce wrap appetizers rescues an otherwise tepid presentation. But questionable steps appear to be rare, especially for such an extensive menu. Porges explains it’s the third since the handsome space opened 11 months ago – a compilation of the most popular items from the first two menus.
One new addition is the eggplant Napoleon, an indescribable mess of a platter that looks like the aftermath of a typhoon. But with a foundation of grilled eggplant and musty portobellos, the zing of crushed tomatoes, the candied allure of caramelized onions… oh, there’s more. It’s hard to resist the plate’s siren call, even when it’s burdened by a pad of melted mozzarella.
Maybe it’s the dish that best represents Pangaea – inviting and likeable, maybe not without minor flaws, but a place that offers a bit of everything.
PANGAEA GRILL Ocean between Lincoln and Dolores, Carmel. Daily 8am-9pm. 624-2569.