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Sep 14, 2006 01:19 AM

Tasty Korean in SF?

My husband and I are huge fans of panchan, kimchee jigae, bolgogi... if it's spicy and authentic, we'll eat it. We'll be in SF for my husband's birthday and I'd love to suprise him with a dodge into a really wonderful hole in the wall. Suggestions?

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  1. being originally from LA and well-versed in K-town fare, i haven't been able to whole-heartedly recommend any korean places in SF city. however, these 2 are adequate:

    Shin Toe Bul Yi on taraval and 30th. a familiar greasy, smokey dining room with an interesting fried chicken, an ok bulgogi, and a good assortment of panchan. check ahead for their hours as i think they're closed one weekday.

    Han Il Kwan at 1802 Balboa St has a more comfortable and cleaner, Korean-esque atmosphere. you have the option of grilling yourself or having the kitchen put out meat on hot plates. there's a moderate selection of jigae and they're not bad. good assortment of panchan.

    for a more K-town-esque experience, i prefer jong ga house in oakland at 372 grand. jigae is excellent as is pan-fried chicken and kimchee. panchan is abundant and flavorful. the closet match to k-town flavor and spiciness i've had up here in the bay.

    good luck! =)

    9 Replies
    1. re: lawrence

      Have you tried Dong Baek in the Tenderloin (O'Farrell, I think)? I haven't been yet (so much to eat in that hood) but it got some favorable reviews a while back. I'd appreciate hearing your opinion on it.

        1. re: fine wino

          I went with Pei once (here's a link to her blog entry, you'll need to scroll down a bit). It was fine but nothing special. But reasonably priced.

        2. re: lawrence

          Note: a post asking about LA K-town favourites has been moved over to the LA board. You can check it out and add your responses here:

          1. re: lawrence

            I agree on Shin Toe Bul Yi. The fried chicken is great, it comes with picked daikon and a spicy tofu soup. The panchan is quite good too. I've never ordered the bulgogi, but the kalbi can be very good (though it's been dry at times). You actually have the option of grilling yourself if you get at least two orders of meat. I've been mostly disappointed with the other dishes there though.

            I've only been to Han Il Kwan once, it was fine but not great. Brothers was really disappointing, both the meats (we chose to have them cook it for us) and the panchan. Haven't been to any of the Oakland places yet.

            1. re: lawrence

              update on a recent visit to han il kwan last weekend...

              4 of us arrived on a sun evening around 8pm to a pretty open restaurant, only 2 or 3 tables but a large party in the private room. we opted to bbq at the table (i like to come out smelling like meat;) ) and ordered a plate of galbi and daeji bulgogi, the cod fish jigae, and chop jae. i think i counted 12 or more dishes of panchan, the fishcake and marinated cucumbers being the favorites of the night.

              the galbi was good, the rib bone even better, and while the marinated pork was fine, it lacked some assertiveness in spices compared to K-town examples. then, the waitress brought out, on the house, a small, piping hot clay pot of egg custard! she said it'd be very good over our rice and indeed it was. nicely seasoned and so fluffy. who knew you could cook eggs like that?

              then our cod jigae arrived, bubbling over its dark clay rim. the broth was pretty tasty but missing a few notches of hot spiciness. all the vegetables and tofu were fine, but the cod unfortunately was tough and overcooked. most likely frozen vs fresh. i'd say go for another jigae version on the menu.

              our chap jae still hadn't arrived and by the time we got through the jigae, we were so stuffed we told the waitress to cancel it if they'd forgotten. they had, but we shrugged it off since we were so stuffed from the meat, jigae and abundant, bottomless slection of panchan.

              we finished off with a small serving of sweet rice water with toasted pine nuts, which i find a refreshing way to rinse out that heavy, greasy meat taste with something a little sweet.

              all in all the bill came out to $$64 w/tax and tip - only $16 pp! my friends had a great time and while this isn't as great as some places in k-town, i'll be happy to return. service is very pleasant and generous (minus the fact they forgot a dish but they apologized profusely). now if only they could do something about that richmond district parking...

              1. re: lawrence

                Under spicing at HIK hasn't been a problem for me since I started using the Chowhound line;"I may be American, but my stomach is Korean".

                1. re: TomG

                  doesn't that imply you'd prefer it to have more spice? if your stomach's korean, it could handle "more?"

            2. How do folks here feel about Brothers Korean BBQ? I've always had a great time there. (In the Richmond.)

              3 Replies
              1. re: MuppetGrrl

                i've been meaning to go to brothers but always forget about it. i heard they have a 2nd location that just isn't the same.

                1. re: MuppetGrrl

                  As I wrote above, I wasn't happy with Brothers on a visit a couple of months ago. In that area, I think Wooden Charcoal BBQ and My Tofu House are better bets.

                  1. re: Malik

                    What a bummer. I haven't been in a while. I'll have to try the other places you mentioned.

                2. From what I have heard Brothers is under new management, and the bbq has suffered for it.

                  1. Trust me. Go to LA for Korean food. Don't know why, but for whatever strange reason, Korean food in the Bay Area pales in comparison.

                    Been eating Korean food for over 30 years.

                    1. Hmm, really? Thanks for the tip. Nice thing is, we're so much closer to LA.