Zion Market - Irvine
Where once there were jars of pickles, there are jugs of kimchi. There aren't anymore blocks of cheese, just blocks of tofu.
The sacks of kibble are gone, replaced by sacks of rice. The deli section is now a kimbap prep station. And the cartons of Häagen-Dazs? Well they're still there, but next to it are boxes of mochi ice cream.
What was the only Vons in Irvine is history. Taking over its expansive digs is a spanking new Korean supermarket called Zion, which can rightly claim the crown as the biggest Asian grocer in town.
Step aside 99 Ranch on Culver.
However, from the looks of things, the Zion Market folks haven't quite figured out what to do with all that room. Yes, the aisles are overstocked with everything a Korean housewife could ever want. Yes, the freezers are crammed with more varieties of dumplings than a Korean college student will ever know what to do with.
But the prepared foods department is still struggling to think of items to cook up to line its shelves or showcase in the sparsely populated island refrigerators. It's a futile effort though, since so far there aren't enough customers, and yup, too much excess space. Methinks it might be easier to fill up a swimming pool with a soda straw.
What was present did look good. There were squid, octopus, and other sea creatures covered in a deadly red chili paste. Fried anchovies glistened with a caramel glaze. In plastic boxes were steamed veggies exotic and familiar; some as black as tar; others greener than emeralds.
I picked up a few other items for dinner. First there was mung bean pancakes ($3.59) which looked tasty enough under the heat lamps, but were in need of salt when I got home to eat it. Inside its chewy, dense batter was rebar in the form of bean sprouts and roughly julienned stalks of scallion.
Zion's vermicelli noodles ($3.74) were greasy with too much sesame oil. As I felt the nutty lube coat my mouth, I bet even a sesame-oil-loving-Korean would think this was too heavy-handed to enjoy. It distracted from the salty bits of beef and the jelly jiggle of the clear noodles.
Just right were the soy-seasoned hard-boiled eggs ($1.54). Permeated to the yolk with soy sauce, it was good enough to eat by itself. And of course, Vons never dreamed of stocking anything like it.
4800 Irvine Blvd.
Irvine, CA 92620