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Your Favorite Korean places in SF?

I have been to Um Ma Son and New Korea House. I have such a craving. Thanks

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  1. I really like Han Il Kwan on Balboa near 19th Avenue. Excellent Korean BBQ and friendly service. Beware because on some days (haven't gotten the schedule down) they cater bus loads of tourists in their back room and main dining room!

    2 Replies
      1. re: Gary Soup

        As in tourists from Korea. They prefer to eat Korean food when travelling. I know, bizarre.

    1. Seoul Garden. Great food, and love the wood interior.

      1. Thank you both I will look forward to trying both of these places.

        1. Two others to consider are Shin Toe Bul Yi, at 30th Ave & Taraval, and Dong Baek, on O'Farrell near Leavenworth.

          Sahn Maru in Oakland is better than them both, however. From SF it's just a few blocks from MacArthur BART.

          7 Replies
          1. re: david kaplan

            I loved Sahn Maru when I was there last. Thanks for the other.

            1. re: david kaplan

              It was a sad day for the San Franciscans when Sahn Maru decamped from the City and moved to Oakland. That area on Telegraph Ave. in Oakland by the MacArthur BART station has several Korean restaurants that whip anything in SF.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                you are right that area has some of the best. I just don't get over there much anymore, maybe a BART ride is called for.

                1. re: Lori SF

                  If you have the time, it's worth it. I was kinda concerned that the SF restaurants might not scratch the itch for you.

              2. re: david kaplan

                I like Shin Toe Bul Yi for Korean home-cooking, and Seoul Garden for out of town guests or people new to Korean food. Had a bad experience at Korea House, although they showered us with panchan because our soup was so disappointing. Brothers is where my Korean friends eat when no one wants to cook. I work downtown, so if I want a quick lunch fix I go to Sarabol at the Westfield Center (remember to order a "salad plate.") I also love the hot pot at My Tofu House on Geary. I live in the Inner Sunset, though, so I probably go to Art's Cafe on 9th and Irving the most: the owners are Korean and while perhaps it's not a "Korean restaurant" you can get bulgogi or bibimbap with a side of kimchi alongside your pancakes and bacon!

                1. re: david kaplan

                  this reminds me of something i feel rather ashamed of. i have been trying to go to sahn maru to try their goat stew forever. one of my best friends and i decided we'd treat each other to the meal of our choice for our birthdays this past year. we made a pact. she wants to go to zuni, i want to go to sahn maru. our birthdays were in late summer, and we still haven't managed to go. so lazy! awful.

                  i never once encountered goat in korea, where i went to high school, so i'm really intrigued. plus, i know they use korean perilla leaves in it, almost like an herb. i've only had them raw to wrap grilled meats or as a sort of kimchi. this thread makes me feel ashamed and i'm determined to make the ridiculously easy trip to the east bay with her to try this thing out. i'm always complaining that i've never found a go-to korean spot in the city, and i've been more industrious about looking for other kinds of food, although korean food is closest to my heart (or stomach). while being without a car restricts my movement in the greater bay area, oakland is so easy to get to. i'm going to make this a priority. hopefully i'll be back to post about my oakland korean explorations before my next birthday!

                  1. re: augustiner

                    At Sahn Maru I believe you need to order the black goat stew for two in order to get the full treatment.

                2. I'm a fan of Brothers on Geary, near 6th across from Kaiser. Very authentic.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Carrie 218

                    I think I have been to Brothers and it was very authentic.

                  2. Wooden Charcoal BBQ on Geary and 10th or 11th avenue. Great Kalbi. They cut the ribs in a fan fold way and not across the ribs.

                    1. I would definately have to say Brothers on Geary. I'm not sure if they are still running their lunch deals, but if they are, that's a great time to try it out. Each of the basic dishes (ie Kalbi, Bulgogi, Jap Chae, Jun, Tofu Soup) is only $7 each. The portions are the right size to share with a friend or two, and it's much cheaper than dinner.

                      1. Agree: Shin To Bul Yi.
                        Would like to add Pyung Chang Tofu on Telegraph in Oakland.

                        Somewhat disagree with Sahn Maru. Very nice owners - I tried the old San Francisco place. Thoughtfully decorated interior with a memorable drum in the entryway. Food was lovingly prepared, but lacked expertise.

                        Haven't tried the others. Sadly, Korean restaurants in SF are not quite up to L.A. standard. Possibly down in the peninsula.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: grocerytrekker

                          Yes LA one of the things I miss about LA. I tried Pyung Chang Tofu, not bad not great either. If I lived over there I would probably go back a few times.

                          1. re: Lori SF

                            Considering I can't find a single decent Singaporean restaurant in the entire bay area, Korean food seems relatively well represented. I am puzzled that it's not better documented.

                            I was introduced to excellent pork bossam at the little tofu house, Pyung Chang. (Their white tofu was the best I had ever had. Clear broth, satisfying rich flavor.)

                            I wish I had taken notes. My memory of the meal has faded a little. I thought about revisiting this place so I could write a more informed review. I will jot down a few things before my next visit.

                            Banchan is important in judging a Korean restaurant. Often, you detect a common essence in the small dishes. Like Shin To Bul Yi's offerings, Pyung Chang's were bracingly peppery, refreshing, well-seasoned and savory. Not muddy tasting. Next time, I will write down each item.

                            The neatly sliced white pork pieces looked like fatty bacon with plenty of meat attached, and far from greasy. Astonishingly juicy and tender. You make a bossam wrap with steamed cabbage and accompanying sauce. Delicious! (more details next time)

                            Melanie's review of their mul naeng myun:

                            1. re: grocerytrekker

                              This is solely a review of Pyung Chang, so I'll post here.

                              I was going to put aside my mantra of “apples and oranges…. never!!!” and compare completely different dinner experiences for fun, just because they were done back to back and they are fresh in my mind. Not apples and oranges, either – more like apples and cabbages. Dinner at Oliveto yesterday, dinner at Pyung Chang Tofu House the night before.

                              Price per person -

                              Oliveto – $70/head, Pyung Chang – $15/head

                              The ambience -

                              Oliveto - Sat at the second table with a view of the BART track. On my left, I could see the roasting spit (empty at the time), and a lovely bar, with a gigantic flower arrangement of cherry branches with white blossoms. Beautiful dim lighting throughout…

                              Okay. I realized this was going to take forever, and stupid. Oliveto has been covered pretty well. It's still my favorite in Oakland, I'll give it another chance some other time.

                              Pyung Chang Tofu House

                              Dominating the room are irregularly cut solid wooden tables and benches with dark smooth finish. These are nice, but this is not a place you go for the ambience. Fluorescent tubes on the ceiling. 2 pendant lighting fixtures flanking an ugly ceiling fan. One of the lights is off – I suspect unintentionally. 1920’s beadboards painted brown, a vending machine in plain sight, quaint posters without frames. Misspelt menus – ex) pork ribs & potato stew “cassrole”… I was here for lunch last time, and I think it looked better then, due to the missing fluorescent factor. Whatever. I am here for the food... But did I mention that the tables and benches look fabulous?

                              Ordered seafood soon tofu, $8.99, and one “steamed pork” which the lady called “pork bossam”, $16.99.

                              Right away arrived banchan in 7 earthenware plates.

                              1) White julienned radish. Mushy. Half-cooked? Almost sweet. Found baby oysters in them.

                              2) A generous mound of glistening yellow bean sprouts (soybean sprouts, not mung bean) with scallions. This is nice.

                              3) Marinated seaweed (nori, not kelp) in small sheets, stuck together. Seasoned with scallions, sesame oil. Salty. Too many flavors – I didn’t like this one too much.

                              4) “Chwee namul”(?) This was the best! A sophisticated tasting herb/vegetable dish. The large whole marinated leaves resemble grape leaves or shiso when unfurled. I tasted olive oil and garlic.

                              5) Kimchee – vinegary tart, light and refreshing. A good one!

                              6) Cucumber/bok choy kimchee. Whole leaves of bok choy and diagonally sliced thin cucumber. Lots of red pepper.

                              7) Bean paste and tiny shrimp condiment (salty!) for the bossam dish.

                              The pork arrived. Little 1-2 inch slices of plump belly meat. Darker than I remembered, and drier than I remembered. The accompanying sheets of napa cabbage were lightly salted. A little mound of julienned radish sitting next was out of this world. Tart, crunchy and yummy. There were so many things on this single plate. All these, and raw garlic (for?), rings of jalapenos, a big mound of julienned radish, this one more heavily seasoned than the other kind, spicy and studded with fermented raw oysters. Strong, but savory goodness.

                              No bare hands needed. One piece of napa leaf, one piece of pork, a little bit of radish, a bit of bean paste, one itty bitty shrimp, and there it is. A bossam mouthful easily handled by chopsticks.

                              Little stainless bowls of rice had little sweet green peas mixed in. The sizzling stone bowl where the rice originally came from kept cooking the crunchy rice which you could peel off to enjoy like crackers.

                              The hot roasted barley tea was much needed, since the meal was on the salty side. I saw people helping themselves from a hot tea dispenser, so I did.

                              The sizzling tofu had good quality seafood in every spoonful. Clams, oysters, mussels, squid. And unpeeled shrimp. Should I have eaten it as if it were “soft-shell shrimp”? I felt that it was there as a flavoring agent, not really to be peeled and consumed, although it was big enough. I didn’t, so I may never know what I missed... It also had squash, onions, and had clean, peppery taste.

                              Overall, the food was very good. The décor, lacking. Will I return? Most probably! The best in SF? I'll keep looking.

                        2. Related note: search for south-bay korean. There's a lot of Korean in San Jose around Lawrence and El Camino. Mostly all-korean signs. Must dive in --- but anyone got favorites?

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: bbulkow

                            Korea House in Santa Clara is excellent:

                            2340 El Camino Real
                            Santa Clara, CA 95050
                            (408) 249-0808

                            A huge variety of good-quality kimchee/sides... from sweet to salty to spicy.
                            Koreans and Korean-Americans pack this place, but the staff is very friendly to non-Koreans as well.

                          2. God, my college gf in 1991 brought me to Han II Kwan (as mentioned above on Balboa) and also to this place on Geary and 12? same block as Jack in the Box. Wait..someone posted the name above...wooden charcoal. They use wooden charcoal and/or wood. Free spicy tofu soup is not bad at all.

                            I also went to Korea house and thought it was as good but does not seem as authentic as Han II Kwan or Wooden Charcoal. I guess the "vibe" is more like brothers...alot of 20 and 30 year olds...Food is good, but if my memory does not fail me, they BBQ for you...

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: badbatzmaru

                              Most Korean places (including Han Il Kwan) will do the barbecuing for you unless when the platters of raw meat arrive you quickly take charge and demonstrate that you know what you're doing.

                              1. re: badbatzmaru

                                Wood Charcoal update: April 07, 2007, Friday night, 6:30 p.m. The place was quite empty when the six of us arrived. It was full but the time we left at 8 p.m. Boy, did the prices go up. MOst meat dinner bbq items/entrees are over $20.00, yikes. We ordered the 4 person special (bbq chicken, pork, and beef, plus a noodle dish) + our friends wanted bim bim bop (we ordered 2), and another round of bbq beef. I would have preferred 2 fish dishes.

                                After ordering 6 entrees, some beers, and soju, the bill came out to $35 per head. The food was okay, but price was more than average for the quality and quantity. Time to try some new places, maybe Han Il Kwan.

                              2. My Tofu House out on Geary has incredible hot pot but their bbq'd meats (esp. their pork) and side dishes are also really quite good. I drove by there just tonight and at 7 pm it was standing room only so they continue to do something very right.

                                1. There's a relatively new Korean place on Geary between 22nd and 23rd (about four doors west of Le Vie) that was wonderful when I ate there several months ago. I can't remember the name, though.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Laura2

                                    Um Ma Son (north side of Geary betw 22nd and 23rd)

                                  2. I always like Brother's, not always the friendliest but the food is good - my friends and I usually go for the kalbi, pork and chicken, with bin dae dook (pancakes as a side) sometimes if you order a lot they throw in extra jap chae (noodles).

                                    Went to New Korea House (ground floor restaurant) in J-Town, they switched a dish on me and charged me much more. Won't be going back to New Korea House again!

                                    1. my tofu house on Geary and 11th ave. is the best! come early....long waiting line!
                                      used to be cheaper than this....but not anymore