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Jun 15, 2007 11:59 AM

A-Won ... not so much

Fired up by a very positive Jonathan Gold review and some gorgeous blog photos, my husband and I went with a group to A-Won, a Korean-Japanese sushi joint, with designs on their hwe tup bap, a sort of sashimi salad bowl with rice. We were disappointed.

We started with some dynamite and a sashimi platter. According to the menu, you have to choose between tuna, hamachi and halibut for the sashimi platter ($30), but the waitress said we could do half and half. So half tuna, half hamachi. The dynamite came out first... I've actually never had this, and apparently it's the bastard child of sushi if tasty in its way, and this place isn't exactly a temple anyway so I thought, why not. Here's why not: toasted cat food. That's pretty much what it was like, although people kept kind of nibbling at it till the rest of the food came.

The sashimi was okay... hamachi definitely much better, nice and buttery. We should've gotten all hamachi instead of the tuna.

And as for the vaunted hwe tup bap, it arrived royally in a gigantic lacquered-look red-and-black bowl. Mixing up the contents with hot sauce was some arm-wearying labor. But something was missing... it just wasn't as flavorful as at our usual place, Odaesan (where admittedly it's $3-4 more expensive, about $18, unless you get the lunch special). I had been craving fried food so I got the tempura... possibly the worst I've ever had. The crust was like cardboard.

I have to say, I'm still kind of fascinated by the photos of the al bap, or rice with fish eggs, on the potatomato blog. There's a ton of uni on there, and I love uni. Could this place be worth another try??

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  1. Great write up. I'll skip the place. Sorry about the tempura - nothing worse than bad tempura.

    1. I've been there and thought the Hwe Dup Bap was very good. The Sashimi was good as well. I do like O Dae San a little better and has a little more atmosphere, but I think they are both good. Maybe the Tempura was bad, but I usually stick to the fish anyway.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bsquared2

        I just got back from A-Won and I too was a little disappointed by the Hwe Dup Bap. I've never had it before but I guess I expecting something a little more exciting to the tastebuds. From the photo I guess I was expecting something that tasted like a bibimbap but with fish. Overall i thought it was kinda bland even with the chili, and I guess it would have been better if the fish had been higher quality. Not sure. Either way I was not as jazzed as Jonathan G, who is usually the guru.

      2. Hey Cicely,
        Might I ask what your "usual place" is?

        1 Reply
        1. re: steen

          I went to A won last Thursday for Lunch by myself. I had the Hwe do bap. Hmm, no smelt eggs, very little sesame oil, I asked for more and the chef gladly poured it on. and no quail eggs. I had this dish for many years in a row in the olde resto that occupied the place before Chul Shin (sp) took it over, knocked it down, and made the modern temple of Korean bbq. Anyway that was the only resto that I had it at and boy was it great!! Very fresh fish diced in front of you( if you sat at the bar) warm rice, cool greens and a very flavorful sesame oil, the paste in the ketchup bottles added the balance to perfect the dish. Mix it in ( i used a spoon for that ) and ate to my hearts content. I use to go all the time with a good friend of mine whom is very well established in the korean community. I went with him, his wife, his kids, myself and it was always great.. I am going to try O dae San next per the recs on this board.. I will let you know. As to A won no flavor what so ever.. the fish in the case and in my bowl did not look very fresh and IMHO I would just go somewhere else. Kind of boring for what it was. But for $13 bucks on the lunch special it was not breaking my bank..

        2. Gotta tell ya, I like the Hwe Dup Bap at Bu San much better - more fish, better panchan, and much better atmosphere/service.

          1. Is this place worth a try? If so, what is a need to order there besides the hwe tup bap?

            3 Replies
            1. re: Food622

              Go to the place link below and you'll find most of the recent mentions of A-won. We have not been so can't give you any first hand information.


              1. re: Servorg

                If you want stringy left over sashimi in your chirashi/bibimbap (now renamed hwe dup bap), go to A-Won.

                If you want actual good fish over rice, go to a real Japanese sushi restaurant.

                1. re: TonyC

                  Japanese sushi vs. hwe dup bap: not a fair comparison. Totally different concepts and there's a reason for all those greens and hot pepper paste accompanying the dish (to mask inferior fish). Korean cuisine is not exactly known for raw fish preparations, Japanese excels in it. Also, hwe dup bap is not a renaming of anything.. it's a legit name. Having said all that, hwe dup bap is a summer dish and is meant to be light and refreshing.. I think people are expecting too much out of lower sushi grade fish, plain steamed rice, veggies & hot pepper paste. Roe can certainly increase the umami factor but not a given in hwe dup bap.