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Jun 26, 2006 03:25 PM

Best Korean in SF?

I'm remembering a great meal at Do Hwa in New York and could really use some good Korean food. I'm embarrassed to say I haven't gone out for it (save the occasional bowl from Sorabol in the mall) in years. Any recommendations for the best Korean around? (BBQ or otherwise?)


(The new system rejected my HTML, but here's the URL for Do Hwa: <

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  1. For non-BBQ, I like Shin Toe Bul Yi, especially for dokbokki and kimchee-pork sautee with tofu. It's at 30th Ave & Taraval. Dong Baek, in the Tenderloin, is also good.

    Just opened, which I haven't tried, is a buldak (fire chicken) place at 550 Taylor.

    Board consensus is that Oakland's Telegraph Avenue has a better collection of Korean places than SF does.

    What do you like at Sorabol? Comments on other sites (Citysearch, Yelp) describe much of the food there as inedible, except for noodles cooked to order.

    7 Replies
    1. re: david kaplan

      Here's my recent post on Pyung Chang in Oakland. Sahn Maru is highly thought of too.

      1. re: david kaplan

        i've actually just discovered the korean place on tarval (how i refer to it)

        its actually really nice 'homey' style food. its not built on the whole BBQ thing.

        for the most part, people are ordering tofu pots and various stews.

        the most popular dish it would seem is the fried chicken. i know right? fried chicken? but its this mildly seasoned fried chicken, not greasey at all and its served with these lightly pickled turnips. and you're supposed to eat a bit of chicken and a bit of the turnip. seperatly the chicken isn't amazing, nor is the pickled turnip. but when you start eating them one after the other or together in your mouth, it because a really addictive very enjoyable dish. like the turnip 'brightens' up the chicken and you can taste the flavors of the chicken better.

        1. re: spork

          I'm a big fan of the fried chicken at Shin Toe Bul Yi. (I thought the cubes were pickled daikon, not turnip. Could be wrong.)

          I've generally gone for weekday lunch and been very happy with the kalbi and fried chicken, and the free tofu stew, which comes with the chicken.

          But we had dinner there the other night and had really overdone kalbi--it wasn't crisp on the edges or especially flavorful. I think the difference is at lunch kalbi is cooked to order, whereas when they get busy at dinner, they cook up a batch and it sits. It's not a barbecue place, though.

          We also had a few weird dishes to fill out the table. One of them was skate wing in the favorites section, which turned out to be huge slices of raw frozen skate in a red sauce. It was unique but inedible (I suggested it might be good at 1 a.m. with vodka, but even then we weren't sure). Although we were tempted to bring it home and try cooking it, we left it mostly untouched. I gather from talking to Melanie Wong that this odd dish is authentic, or at least available to mystify diners at other Korean restaurants.

          Another was the chicken gizzards and vegetables. The server tried to talk us out of it, which only made me argue more vehemently. It was okay, a little sweet.

          The final dish was the kalbi bowl, a sort of bi bim bap. It was fine, not memorable.

          We walked up to Marco Polo for dessert. Fresh strawberry is highly recommended.

          1. re: Windy

            Here's a link to my one experience with the semi-frozen strips of skate wing at Bear Korean in Cotati.


            I'd still love to hear from anyone who can help me appreciate this dish. Admittedly, I didn't "get it".

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                Tom, thanks for pulling up that old post. We're in the same boat, and I'd still like some enlightenment on what the appeal is.

                1. re: Melanie Wong

                  We used to order skate wing virtually every time we ate at Japantown's Korea House in less-enlightened times (who knew then how endangered skate were?). I confess it was years later I realized it was raw! Just thought it was oddly chewy!

                  No matter what else we try, we end up back at Korea House. I think we've probably introduced Korean food to 2-dozen friends there over the years.

                  Finally got out to the place on Taraval/30th: Fortunately, it was a rare warm evening in the Sunset because we had to stand around for about 35 minutes on the sidewalk outside.

                  Food was pretty good, suprisingly small selection of pan chan, friendly staff, but, for us, not worth the trek or the wait. Fried chicken made me nervous--don't know if it was the heavy batter or the suspicion it might have been cooked in transfats. We recommended kalbi to our new-to-Korean-food friends, but the kitchen was out! Instead, a v. disappointing bulgoki.

                  One odd thing: They comped us a mackerel without telling us and we kept trying to catch someone's eye to say we'd received a dish we hadn't ordered.

                  For years, I thought of Han Il Kwan as the most authentic of all SFBA Korean spots, both culinarily and in its xenophobic attitude. It was also FREEZING--always had to keep a jacket on. As I posted a while back, it has changed hands, now closes early (10ish, instead of 3 am), is friendlier to Westerners, but perhaps less exciting foodwise.

                  We really liked our one meal at Sahn Maru in Oakland, but the place was noisy and, for lack of a better term, "uncozy."

                  I should emphasize that we virtually never eat BBQ, always stuff like kimchee chigae, sauced octopus, and/or one or another noodle dish.

                  I'd love to hear from other aficionados why Korea House "don't get no respect" on this board! It remains one of only about 4 places we go to with any regularity, and some of those are more out of being walking distance than being wonderful.

          2. I find Seoul Garden acceptable in Japantown for non-BBQ food. I haven't tried their BBQ though they have it. I eat lunch there fairly often to get the Bulgogi Dulsotbap.

            I still like Brother's on Geary for BBQ too.

            1. I know others have given Brothers an "eh" but I love Brothers and Brothers II on Geary. It's been a long time since I've been to Brothers II but nothing beats a real wood charcoal fire for grilling your meats.

              1 Reply
              1. re: muimi07

                I went to Brothers a few months ago with a very large party. We originally had reserved at Brothers II, but they handed us off to Brothers, and it was actually great.

                The food was all very nice, especially the kimchee, and the owner kept giving us free beers and other freebies and being generally very friendly.

                It was a very fun time!

              2. I haven't been there in a long time, but from what I heard they are still good, try Han Il Kwan on Balboa and 19th. Brothers is till good for BBQ if you don't mind the wait. Good luck

                crimson out.

                1 Reply
                1. re: crimson

                  I tried Han Il Kwan about a year ago. Satisfactory, if not exciting. Oddly, the best thing we ordered was a very plain beef soup with perfectly tender and succulent beef shank meat.

                2. I also like going to My Tofu House for an occasional bowl of tofu stew.