Chowdown report: Bear Korean, Cotati
So Freiheit, Melanie Wong, LikeFrogButOoh, Cindy, her ChowPartner(not on chowhound) and I gathered tonight at Bear Korean Restaurant in Cotati for some tasty chow and interesting conversation. Unfortunately, several north bay chowhounds couldn't make it, but I'm sure there will be other chowdown opportunities soon!
We decided to dine family-style, maximizing the number of dishes we could try. Appetizers to start were Hae Mul Pa June, Dak Goon Nam Du, and Tuk Bok Gi. I'm not sure which is which, but they were fried dumplings (pot sticker-like), fish pancake (it was served more like a frittata than the crepe-like pancake I had expected) and a spicy dish with tubular-shaped rice cake bits and some sort of fish. I'm very new to Korean cuisine so pardon the awkward descriptions and lack of knowledge as to what exactly we ate. (Hopefully Cindy and Melanie can fill in those parts better than i) We had at least four other dishes for our entrees, including a pork bbq dish, a beef bbq dish, a "hot pot" rice dish with bits of pork and an egg that was cooked by the heat of the dish it was served in, and a cold salad dish with beef, an egg and a sesame dressing. (I didn't write down the names of what we ordered, only the number, thinking I would grab a togo menu on the way out, but I forgot. Doh!) Oh, and the table was served two sets of banchan (side dishes), which included some potato salad, a sesame-flavoured noodle dish (my fav), and a pickled vegetable of some sort. (I think we had at least five little side dishes. It was all delicious! I especially enjoyed the bbq pork dish. The pork was a bit crispy on the outside and tender and flavourful on the inside. The cold salad was also delish, the sesame dressing a perfect compliment to the tasty bits of beef. I'm definitely returning to Bear Korean in the future to get more aquainted with Korean food.
I took pictures of the food, and will post a link to 'em when I get them off of my camera tomorrow.
After dinner, Melanie suggested going for dessert at a nearby Thai food place. Freiheit, myself, Melanie and LikeFrog managed to make it to the restaurant right before they closed for some yummy sticky rice with mango and coconut milk, and fried bananas with ice cream.
I had a great time meeting everyone and hope to do it again sometime soon! I'd write more, but I'm pooped and having a hard time writing this much. Heh. Hopefully everyone else will chime in soon with their reports.
Bear Korean Barbeque
8577 Gravenstein Hwy, Cotati, CA 94931
I was stuck in traffic on Black Friday en route to Russian River and was pleasantly surprised by Bear Korean. I had the tuk bok gi as well as the soon du bu (though I had to ask for an egg to be cracked into the hot-pot). I too am a little spoiled by my proximity to LA's KTown, but I gotta tell you, it certainly beat the prospect of having to get Carls Jr.
I really like Bear Korea! Glad you all had a chowdown there. I agree with everyone's comments.
Believe it or not, my in-laws like Bear Korea so much that they asked us to take them there for their 50th wedding anniversary about five years ago. That was so much fun, and so different from their usual anniversary dinner.
Eat Nopal & I had a little mini-chowdown here today for lunch.
>Hae-mul Pa Jun (Seafood pancake)
My favorite of everything we ordered, tender calamari, and crisp, sweet green onions.
> Dol Sot Bi bimbap
Lacking - kudos for addition of fern braken - but I couldnt discern much else other than some beef and lettuce. Egg was a nice sunny side up. The pot could have been more heated - pathetic 'crust'
> Cold spicy Naeng-myun ( buckwheat noodles)
Liked the consistency of the noodles, kochujang broth - while good and spicy - too sweet for me. Liked the asian pear slices and cukes though sparse.
"Meh." Only stand out was the Japchae. Whats the deal with the kimchi> I mean come on...
I would note that KR has very high standards culled in L.A's Koreatown & other experiences. I am less spoiled by Koreatown... as my limited experiences revolved around Korean Sushi & Grill Your Own Meat joints. With that in mind... I do agree that the flavors were a bit flat & definite lacked heat.
> The Seafood pancake (yeah kind of like a fritata) was great & I think could be served at any of the finer restaurants in Sonoma County without a problem.
> I found the buckwheat noodle dish refreshing & the textural contrasts interesting... but would wait for a hot day to order again. The broth could use more complexity... and maybe it was a bit sweet as it reminded me of the Cucumber & Fruit with Chile & Lime you get a Mexican places.
> The rice with beef, egg & radish hot plate... maybe it lacked condiments but I found it to be much better than my recent Loko Moko experiences in Honolulu. The beef was extremely tender (twice cooked not velveted) & the eggs texture was perfect. Again, not being spoiled by Koreatown places... I found this dish to have a sort of diner / comfort food aura to it... but execution was well above average for this area (imho).
> Panchan.... I thought everything was good but not great... with the kimchee being quite a dissappointment.
> Hot Sake... don't remember the brand... I enjoyed it thought it was better than average (compared to neighborhood Japanese sushi joints in West L.A.).
Here are the links to the post-Korean dessert and a tip from the Laotian manager at Thai Hut Valley in Cotati.
Chowdown Part 2: Thai Hut Valley for dessert -
Food Festivals @ Wat Lao Saysettha?
Please do register at the link chocolateninja provided above to help us organize the next one.
Wat Lao Saysettha
3625 Moorland Ave, Santa Rosa, CA 95407
Thai Hut Valley
8492 Gravenstein Hwy, Cotati, CA 94931
My favorite was the grilled pork shortrib. A lot to be said for cooking the meat on the bone, just more meatiness somehow than the strips of pork. I also liked the dol sot bibimbap in the stone pot. The rice came out perfectly and the accompanying hot sauce that LFBO stirred in for us gave it just the right kick and extra burst of flavor.
I've had all the types of panchan before that we were served. The potato salad with chunks of apple was the same as before, but i'd have to agree that the others were not as special as I remember them. The flavor seemed to be ratched down a notch, not as much sesame oil, chili, salt, etc., making them much plainer.
Still, I think this is a good spot. But now I think one needs to order more carefully. It's better than most of the Korean places in the City.
Oh, and we forgot to use the discount coupon!
Even without it, we had a lot of chow for not much money paying ~ $15 each including tax and service.
Many thanks, chocolateninja, for putting this together!
Bear Korean Barbeque
8577 Gravenstein Hwy, Cotati, CA 94931
Pics are up! Here are some links, since I don't have a pro account yet and can't make a special set just for this chowdown. These are just a few. There a a few more in my flickr stream.
Want to join in some north bay chowdown fun? Go to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/nbchowdown
Great report, Choconinja! Thought I’d write a rundown of my reactions to the dishes:
I thought the dak goon nam du, the fried dumplings filled with chicken, were okay, if not incredibly flavorful. In a visit to Bear Korean the Sunday past, I had ordered a small order of steamed man du for the table, and I think I prefer those. By steaming them, you can enjoy the more delicate flavors of the stuffing. Glad I got to try the fried to compare, though. The green onion pancake I had been looking forward to, (the pa june, I think) I found to be a bit too thick and burnt. It was served with a thick, very salty bean paste. The rice cake dish was good, though I prefer a spicier sauce to accompany it. Because it was a bit weak, the thick rice cakes didn't get as much flavor as they could. The cabbage and fish cakes that accompanied it were soaked with the sauce, so I enjoyed eating just those.
Next were the pan chan which included the rice noodles, potato salad, fish cake, as well as bean sprouts and three types of kim chi, one of daikon radish and one of napa cabbage with another that I don't know how to classify. If there were others, I can't remember. I thought it was interesting that they made sure to wait until after we had eaten appetizers and then ordered entrees to give us the pan chan. I'm guessing that it is traditional to serve pan chan only directly before entrees. I thought the kim chi wasn’t as pungent and strongly flavored as I like, and Melanie pointed out that it was young. She said some Korean restaurants don’t serve strongly flavored kim chi to their non-Korean customers because many people don’t like it. Next time, I’ll ask if they have older kim chi. The bean sprouts were good but something seemed to be missing, its flavor not as strong as I like. Overall, the pan chan was good but not my favorite. I think years ago it was quite a bit better.
We ordered the galbi (beef short ribs), the daeji galbi (pork short ribs), the hot daeji bulgogi bi bim bap (rice, vegetables, and pork strips in a hot stone bowl with sesame oil), and cold bulgogi bi bim bap (cold mix of beef strips and vegetables, mostly lettuce). That right, Melanie? I completely agree with Choconinja as to the delicious pork short ribs. They were flavorful with an interesting spice mix that still allowed the pork flavor to shine. Big chunks of rather moist meat caramelized a bit on the outside. My favorite of the night and something I would gladly come back to Bear Korean for. The hot bi bim bap with pork was great with that nice crispy layer of rice on the bottom, though for my money, I'd rather just get the pork on its own. The beef short ribs were good, if not my absolute favorite. They were better than the plate of beef strips I had ordered the past Sunday with a much more meaty taste. The cold bi bim bap was the surprise hit of the night. Essentially a salad with meat and a fair amount of sesame oil, I enjoyed the refreshing crunch of the lettuce. I just assumed that the bi bim bap would have rice in it like its hot counterpart, but I think that the rice would have gotten soggy with sesame oil had it been included. I was eating tons of rice with everything.
Overall a very enjoyable meal. The food was good, but the highlight was certainly the excellent company. Special thanks to Melanie, Cindy, and her husband for making the trip out to Cotati. It was lots of fun getting to meet other Chowhounds and come together as a community. Looking forward to our next ‘down!