Of all the terms used to describe a restaurant that dishes out plates simmering with fiery spices and bold flavors, "adorable" may not necessarily be the first that comes to mind. But even from the outside, there’s nothing un-cute about Color, with its rainbow window shades and handmade signs of cartoon chefs. The Asian pop music snapping along like bubble gum only heightens the fun quotient, as do the tiny tapas-like side dishes of marinated bean sprouts, scrambled eggs, macaroni kimchee, and bits of seasoned fishcakes. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more vibrant spot to sample traditional Korean delicacies, like ttokbokki ($5–$8), thick, soft, sautéed rice noodles in a scarlet sauce, or kimbob — essentially maki rolls. Some are stuffed with fillings you’re used to finding in Japanese restaurants, like vegetables and egg ($5), but other varieties, like kimchee and cheese ($6), may throw your palate for a loop.
One wonders: how would those cool, whimsical Sanrio characters or their cute Korean counterparts — like Mashimaro and Blue Bear — take to the spicy flavors that zest up main dishes, like mixed buckwheat memil noodles ($8), codfish stew ($10), or fried chicken smothered with a sheen of sweet chili and garlic sauce ($8.50)? And despite the fact that you’ve sworn off ramen noodles in favor of the finer pastas of the world, be prepared to welcome them back to your diet after a slurp of the thick curry-based ramen ($6) or budae chigae ($10), a ramen stew loaded with various hams, sausages, and veggies, and spiked with spices. If, however, you’re not budging on your oath, you can’t go wrong with a bowl of dumpling soup ($8) or a fried-rice plate ($7–$8). But what makes the entrées most intriguing are the unexpected pinches of sweetness, like pickled radishes, floating in the fiery stews. They cool the palate while letting the flavors simmer, or maybe it’s a clever marketing tactic, a reminder of the cool desserts, like red-bean ice cream ($3) and bingsoo ($5–$6), a shaved-ice treat sweetened with milk or fruit.
Color, located at 166 Harvard Avenue, in Allston, is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 am to 11:30 pm. Call 617.787.5656.