Bay Area Korean recap
I'm back in the Bay for a week from Dublin, and hoping to eat as much Korean food as humanly possibly. I plan to go to my old favorite, Sahn Maru in Oakland, but am looking for some other suggestions.
Have heard Choi's Kitchen in Santa Clara or Kang Tong Degi in Oakland. Any feedback on these places?
What about somewhere in SF?
What's your #1 Korean pick?
Thanks Chowhounders, I couldn't do it without you.
We went to Kang Tong Degi. It was great. We ordered the spicy fried chicken wings and the short rib. The wings were sweet, spicy-hot, well spiced and delicious. It was a huge plate, served with daikon cubes. The short ribs were so flavorful and rich and tender and delicious. They were served over raw onions which stewed in the fat from the ribs under the heat of the meat and the hot platter, which were so good. They came with rice and kimchi and some sort of noodle thing, and pickled daikon and carrots, and bean sprouts. We also got a side of the salad which comes with the grilled meats, which we loved.
We went at happy hour (6-9 Sun-Thu), so a large Hait (1.5 pints) was 4. We got two.
All of it was $48 including a 20% tip. We were stuffed to the gills and had several chicken wings leftover.
The food was delicious. I highly recommend both dishes we had, the spicy fried chicken wings and the short ribs.
The music was a little loud, but since you are seated in little booths, it was easy to carry on a conversation. We went at 7 on a weeknight and were the only people there.
I highly recommend it. We had a huge amount of delicious food, and a celebratory generous amount of beer for a very good price.
I got some interesting information on the confusing (at least to me, when reading these places' menus) variety of Korean soups and stews from Jennifer Flinn, a food blogger.
Usually, anything ending in -guk (국) is most analagous to what we call soup in English, and has a thin and sometimes clear broth or stock with relatively few solid ingredients. Some of the most common guk are kongnamulguk (콩나물국), a very light mungbean soup seasoned with soy sauce or salt, doenjangguk (된장국), a lighter version of the popular soybean stew, and miyeokguk (미역국), a seaweed soup.
Tang (탕) are actually pretty analagous with guk - the big difference is that tang is from a Chinese character and guk is the indigenous Korean word, so tang is considered to be a little bit more elevated-sounding. Tang also essentially means a boiled liquid, and while most things now called tang are fairly substantial soups like daktoritang (닭도리텅), a highly spiced chicken soup/stew, or chogyetang (조개탕), a mild clam soup, it can also include things like daechutang (대추탕), which is a sweet drink made from boiling dried dates.
Jjigae (찌개) is usually translated as stew (or sometimes horrifically as "casserole"), and is usually made with just enough liquid to keep the solid ingredients suspended. This includes the classic kimchi jjigae (김치찌개) and doenjang jjigae (된장찌개), but also kongbiji jiigae (콩비지찌개), made with the leftover bits from making tofu
The distinctive aspect of jeongol (전골) is that it is cooked by the diners at the table. It also has strong ties to traditional Korean court food. The ingredients are assembled in a pan (sometimes having been partially cooked beforehand), which is then filled with liquid and brought to a boil at the table.
Jjim (찜) are steamed foods. It gets confusing because it applies not only to things that are steamed by placing them above boiling water (like jjim mandu - steamed dumplings) but also to things that are "steamed" in a pan with liquid, in a process akin to simmering with the lid on.
re: Robert Lauriston
That's about right, although I would caution against assuming that a tang is more substantial than a guk as a general guideline. Sullungtang, for instance, is much less substantial than ddukmanduguk, and has fewer solid ingredients as well. That author seems to be aware of this, but the way she phrased it, one might come to that conclusion.
Incidentally I noticed that someone claims that mandu are the least flavorful Asian dumplings -- it's probably because most of them are not handmade, at least not in Bay Area restaurants. It's quite a pain to make those things; that is one of those kitchen tasks that Korean children learn to loathe, or at least I did.
my #1 is sahn maru because i love their kimchee chigae and yukejang. and if you have a toddler, ask for the baby meal, which is a nice baby tray of korean food for toddlers. and if you like fresh kim chee, not the pickled you have to request it. i don't know if they always have it but they don't bring it out with the regular pan chan. the fresh kim chee goes great with the galbi tang or bone marrow soup.
#2 is casserole house for the best bo ssam (pork belly and cabbage wrap)
# 3 tied with oghane and sura for tableside bbq. i think oghane has the best dang jang chigae (korean miso soup) and sura has the best mandoo (korean homemade dumpling)
re: Melanie Wong
the baby food tray is served in a hello kitty like tray with mmuk gook (seaweed soup), rice, steamed eggs, broccoli and candied potatoes. it's typical to dump the rice into the mmuk goo and this is what i do and my son who is 2 will actually eat this! but he already has a palate for asian/korean cuisine. he actually loves kim chee, although i usually wash it in water before giving him some. i don't think this is on the menu. they once asked me if i wanted a baby meal and i said yes, and this is what they brought out and ever since i just ask for the baby meal and they usually bring this out before all the entree starts hitting the table.
as far as casseroles bo ssam - well, a typical bo ssam has steamed pork belly that's been sliced, a radish kim chee style relish which has oysters and the salted napa cabbage which acts as the wrap. at bo ssam, they go a little bit farther than that. at least at my last visit. it came with like 3-4 other types of wrap type vegetables like perilla leaves, and with 2 other kinds of dipping sauce. but i think what was best about it was that it was extremely fresh, especially the radish kim chee which i think is the key component of the bo ssam, since it provides all the flavor to the dish. it should be really spicy, garlicy and made the day you it. the owner said it was made that day and she highly recommended it. also, on a busy night, if you go later in the evening, they usually sell out of it.
The seaweed soup is called, "me yuk gook," pronounced exactly as it reads. "Me yuk" means seaweed and "gook" means soup.
It's considered to be a very nutritious dish which is why it's often prepared by mothers for their daughters who have just given birth. It's also a dish that's traditionally served on one's birthday.
Most Korean kids love this soup, as the broth seems to be acceptable to most palates.
Just for the bo ssam searchers on the boards due to the Momofuku in NYC craze- that style bo ssam is roasted pork shoulder that is salted or brined, so the meat brings a lot of the flavor to the table. I've read that traditional versions
with the steamed pork belly, just as lucymom says, the flavors all come from the accompaniments.
After we couldn't get seated at an event at Saul's, we headed for Sahn Maru, but it was its closed night. Had never heard of Casserole House but--after asking to see the Health Dept. report (I thought those were supposed to be posted) and, the boss's eventually digging up the excellent rating--we sat down.
I wanted it to be wonderful because the (apparent) owner/chef was so friendly and kind, but nothing was quite right by the standards I've developed over 40 years of loving this cuisine.
Black goat stew was, well, blah. Sauces on kim chees were a tad muddy. Nothing was as hot as one would expect. The complimentary pancake was a tad too oily.
The chef brought us with obvious pride a serving of the radish (with greens attached) described in yesterday's Chron Food Section--a fresh kim cheelike prep.
My better half did like the mackerel a lot.
We probably won't return--perhaps just a different vision or a regional approach..
Tried the man doo jungol ($30 for two) at Seoul Gomtang in Oakland last night. They make it with the same broth they use in the gom tang, so it's more flavorful than usual. Best I've had.
Turn off the burner when the dumplings are done, maybe two or three minutes, so they don't overcook. Came with four or five kinds of kimchi, no other panchan.
My current regulars:
Ohgane, best all around.
Sura might have the best panchan.
I like Jong Ga a lot but would have to drive past Ohgane to get there.
For atmosphere, I like Dan Sung Sa (soju bang).
Seoul Gom Tang for tang.
Sahn Maru for black goat stew.
Casserole House for jungol.
Chef Yu aka Yuyu Za Zang for Korean Chinese / Shandong.
Kang Tong Degi for soju and hot dried squid with peanuts.
I think I've eaten at every Korean place in Oakland, and my one meal at Gigul Gigul was the worst. Maybe it was just an off day.
It seems like nobody knows about Koryo Boonshik near Berkeley. Im sorry I don't have the address,,, but its on Telegraph near Berkeley. Right across Buffalo Express.
I like the Dduk-bo-ki and the Dol-sot-Bibimbab. Tofu Stew is good, and galbi and bulgogi is good too. Last week I tried the Stir fried Squid Noodle,,,and was dissapointing. Too sweet.
On Telegraph and 61th theres a Korean Style Fried Chicken Place. "OB Chicken" I'm New to the area so I don't know if it had a diffrent name before. I really liked the Garlic Teriyaki fried chicken, and the roasted chicken. They have other menus that will go with beer and soju.
This is in Hayward. Jamejip. A small authentic Korean Restaurant which is famous for goat stew. I really liked the Squid Noodle(o-jing-uh Kal-gook-su, spicy). Small side dishes were tasty. Agu-jjim (Spicy mong fish with bean sprouts)was dissapointing. The portion was small.
Stir fried soondae was good.
21851 Mission Blvd
Hayward, CA 94541
Koryo in Berkeley (which is not affiliated with Koryo in Oakland) flies under the radar b/c of it's hidden location. It's not visible from Telegraph, and unless you tell people it's in the same building as Norikonoko or the fondue place, it's easy to pass by.
Prices are very reasonable there, and the menu has a lot of Korean homestyle items that you rarely find outside of Korea. Koryo is extremely popular with foreign students from Korea who are attending the nearby Cal Berkeley campus. My only quibble with the place is that the banchan selection is more limited than other places (6 items, IIRC).
2556 Telegraph Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94704
We finally got around to trying Dan Sung Sa, the Telegraph Ave. place with the movie posters out front. Very soju-bang atmosphere, all booths. Noodle dishes and spicy chicken wings were good. Soft tofu soup was okay but not great. We saw some great-looking Korean-style fried chicken but what we ordered was heavily breaded and boneless.
Dan Sung Sa
2775 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
So I tried Seoul Gom Tang a few days ago, and wasn't impressed. I had eaten there a few times, but haven't been in the last year. The soup I had had an overpowering smoky flavor, the banchan was lacking--the cucumber kimchi was really fishy and just not very good. Overall, the whole meal was okay, not terrible, but I'd take Sahn Maru or Pyung Chang over it any day!
re: Robert Lauriston
I had the soon dobu chi gae, and also a dumpling "casserole." The soon dobu actually tasted like it had liquid smoke in it. It's my favorite soup, and when I lived in Oakland I tried it from the majority of places in the area. Ohgane was my favorite for a while, then they started going the smoky route. Seoul Gom Tang's also used to be better. Sahn Maru's was as good as I had remembered.
The radish kimchi was very good, but the cucumber and cabbage weren't great. It was about on par with what I make myself.
Choi's Korean Restaurant in Santa Clara is incredible! I went there about 3 weeks ago. It's the best Korean I've had in the Bay area and I've tried all those everyone has listed. I lived in Seoul and have a Korean boyfriend and we both agree that it's great.
Iforgot the Korean names for our dishes, but we had the following: kim chee fritters with seafood, bul go ki with lettuces, rice, etc., and a soft tofu stew. All excellent. It was so good I kept the business card and programmed it into my blackberry - LOL!
3530 El Camino Real, Santa Clara, CA 95051
Do we have any great Korean sushi a la Bu San in LA?
Any Kaesong "royal" menus?
Any of the following dishes? I've probably seen if not eaten some of them but my memory for Korean menus is not great.
dduk (rice dumplings? noodles? served with various dishes)
gamjatang (pork neck bone soup with potatoes)
chachiang mein (noodles in a sauce of onions, black beans, and meat)
sullongtang (kind of beef soup)
spicy cod stew
gook soo (wheat noodles in sauce flavored with dried anchovies)
mandoo (herb-stuffed dumplings)
samgyetang (stuffed hen simmered in broth)
al bap (sushi rice with fish eggs)
hwe do bap (sushi rice with sashimi, raw egg, etc.)
black pig tasting menu
bossam (steamed, pressed pork with garnishes)
I came across all of these in a 2004 Jonathan Gold article, "Koreatown's Top 40":
re: Robert Lauriston
re: Robert Lauriston
Also, you've almost definitely had sullongtang, at Seoul Gom Tang.
I've had chachiang mein at Tong Soon Garden in Santa Clara (I didn't like it - I prefer the Chinese version - but my Korean friend thought it was pretty authentic).
Sura had an excellent stuffed hen in broth at the Chowdown Marlon organized - probably my favorite dish of the night.
I think I had gook soo at Gaboja Sojubang - my friend ordered skinny wheat noodles to replace rice in an octopus dish - I'm not sure if I detected anchovy in the sauce, but it was good.
re: Robert Lauriston
I only have experience with South Bay Korean restaurants, but here's all I know:
-Korean Sushi: There's a place called Shindokdo near Kiely and El Camino that has Korean sushi, though probably not nearly as fancy as at Bu San. The fish is live (as in kept in a tank until serving) and you get banchan, ssambap, maeuntang, etc. for something like $20-30/person. I haven't tried it, but it looked pretty good.
-Dduk: Many of the Korean restaurants in Santa Clara/Sunnyvale have some sort of dduk dish on the menu. Mostly dduk gook, ddukbokgi and dduk mandu gguk, though.
-Gamjatang: The place next to the Galleria market has gamja tang but it's not very good. The portion is big, but they don't use the correct type of bones and the soup isn't rich and fatty. I suspect they just throw pork bones into a master soup base for serving instead of boiling for hours or days like gamja tang specialist restaurants do.
-Jajang mien: Zazang and Four Seasons in Cupertino and Tong Soon in Santa Clara are probably the big names for this dish. Zazang specializes in noodles, fried meat (like tangsuyuk), and oddly, pizza. Four Seasons is a Korean/Chinese (Shandong?) restaurant notable for it's hand pulled noodles. Tong Soon is another Korean/Chinese restaurant, but the noodles aren't hand-pulled. They do a very good tangsuyuk, though.
-Sullongtang: Haven't seen a good sullongtang around the area for years (there used to be a place that specialized in this, but they have since closed). If gomtang is an acceptable substitue, Seoul Gomtang is probably your best bet.
-Gooksu: I think Noodle & Dumpling has had some good word of mouth for gooksu and sujebi.
-Mandoo, bossam, samgyetang, spicy cod stew: These are all pretty common dishes, but I can't make any recommendations because I rarely order them. Personally, I think mandoo is one of the less tasty/interesting asian dumplings, but maybe I just haven't had really good mandoo.
-Al bap: I've had this dish at Sui Tofu. It was just okay compared to regular dolsot bibimbap. I should note that this is the hot version of al bap, not the chirashi style version with raw roe.
-Hwe dup bap: My favorite version of this that I've had in the south bay is at Satsuma Sushi in Mountain View. Nothing particularly notable as far as ingredients, but they give you a lot of fish and veggies. I think Shindokdo (had it, but wasn't impressed), Secret Garden, Korea House and Corner Place have it, too, but don't quote me on this.
- Black pig tasting menu: Oh boy would I love to try this! You won't find it in the South Bay, that's for sure.
re: Robert Lauriston
Dduk - I've had Ddukbokki (spicy sauteed rice cakes) at Sahn Maru which was pretty good. Still haven't been able to find a version with jjol myun (chewy noodles) though.
I read that Kang Tong Degi has Dduk bo sam (bbq wrapped in rice paper). I'm curious what other places have Dduk bo sam as this is very popular in LA but hard to find here.
Most places have Dduk mandu guk (rice cake dumpling soup).
Jajjangmyun - Yet Nal Za Zang in the Oakland Koryo plaza specializes in this dish. I like their Jampong as well. There's also Zazang Korean noodle on Geary in SF, but I haven't tried it.
Mandoo is the dumpling in dduk mandu guk, but I've also had fried versions.
Zazang Korean Noodle
2340 Geary Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94115
Kang Tong Degi
3702 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
Yet Nal Za Zang
4390 Telegraph Ave Ste B, Oakland, CA 94609
re: Robert Lauriston
re: Robert Lauriston
re: Robert Lauriston
Robert, if you like hew do bap, you might want to try the sushi rice salad at Drunken Fish on Piedmont. It's not traditional in that it contains salad greens, but it's pretty tasty.
For a more traditional version, I would suggest you try the version served at Sushi House in Alameda. Their version is very traditional and comes with huge pieces of assorted sashimi over rice.
Also, although hwe dup bap ("dup" means covered) is traditionally served with raw egg, I rarely see restaurants serving it that way, probably b/c of obvious health concerns.
The literal translation of "gook soo" and "mein" is noodles. So "gook soo" and "mein" are used to connote the presence of "noodles" in a dish. The difference is "mein" is often used to describe Chinese-style noodles, whereas "gook soo" is used to describe Korean dishes.
"Kal gook soo" means "knife noodle." The name comes from the fact the noodles in the dish used to be cut by hand. It can be served both warm or cold, both with and without broth. A popular summer-time dish is a noodle dish served in a refreshing cold corn soup.
The gook soo dish you described above is a noodle dish that's commonly served in a broth made with dried anchovies. FYI, Korean cooks use anchovy broth, much in the way Westerners use chicken broth.
Korean mandoo (dumplings) are very similar to Japanese gyoza and Chinese potstickers (but closer to gyoza than potstickers). They can be served boiled, steamed, pan-fried, deep fried, or as a component in soups which often also include dduk.
Dduk means dumplings (not noodles) and can be used in savory preparations (i.e., in soups, spicy stir-fried dishes, etc.) or sweet preparations (i.e, shaved ice with black beans, rolled in seasame seeds/honey and eaten as a dessert, etc.). The rice flour dumplings sold at Korean grocery stores come in many shapes and sizes --- ovals, round balls, and pencil shaped pieces of various thickness.
Gamja (potato) tang (soup) means, you guessed it, potato soup. This soup is often made with pork bones or at my mom's house, boiled flank steak soup.
Al = fish eggs, bap = rice, hwe = sashimi. Bap is also used to describe a mean, b/c to Koreans, rice equals a meal! ;-)
Hope that helps!
As I recall, I've had raw quail egg served in hwe dup bab at the sushi restaurant just north of San Maru - sorry the name escapes me.
Pork spine is traditionally used in gamja tang. I've not tried it, but I've been told that Tutti in Santa Clara has a good version of gamja tang
All in Oakland:
My all-around favorite is Ohgane.
Sahn Maru for black goat stew. Be sure to get at least a double order for the full experience.
Kang Nam, great Korean-style pho. Want to go back and try other things.
Seoul Gom Tang II, ox knuckle / cow foot soup.
Pyung Chang for soft tofu stew (soon dobu).
Gaboja Sojubang, new place, still figuring out the menu.
Sura, another newish place, can't remember what I had but it was good.
3915 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611
4869 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
Sahn Maru Korean BBQ
4315 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
Pyung Chang Tofu House
4701 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
4419 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
347 14th St, Oakland, CA 94612
Seoul Gom Tang
3801 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
re: Robert Lauriston
I second Gaboja Sojubang. I actually didn't order food there, but we had a big group there a few weeks ago for my friend's birthday. We had a VIP room upstairs so we could drink and relax. The workers were awesome and very nice. I do remember trying this poached egg dish the waiter gave to us, that was pretty good.