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Feb 18, 2008 02:09 PM

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.

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  1. 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

    Kang Nam
    4419 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

    Gaboja Sojubang
    347 14th St, Oakland, CA 94612

    Seoul Gom Tang
    3801 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

    2 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Second on Seoul Gom Tang & Pyung Chang Tofu House.

      1. 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.

      2. In SF, Brother's on Geary & 7th.

        1. 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":

          15 Replies
          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Actualy, thinking about it, I think I had dduk and bo sam at Gaboja the other night.

            1. 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.

            2. 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.

              1. re: Humbucker

                If you're looking for jjajjang myun made with hand-pulled noodles, I'd recommend Tsing Tao in Campbell. I'm not a huuuuge fan of cut string beans in my jjanjjang, but the noodles definitely make up for that part.

                1. re: Humbucker

                  for south bay, i like
                  all around: Jang Su Jang
                  kalbi/soondubu combo: Secret Garden
                  soondubu and their panchan: So Gong Dong Tofu House on el camino
                  gomtang: Seoul Gomtang
                  sullungtang: Kunjip
                  grilled tableside quality meats: Ilbunjee #1

                2. 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

                  1. re: DezzerSF

                    Sura's menu has a myun section.

                    Has anyone tried their "table d'hôte" option?

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      Thanks for the tip on Sura, I might have to check it out.

                  2. re: Robert Lauriston

                    Sura's menu doesn't say kaesong (at least not in English), but it does mention royal "health" cuisine.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I think Sura has dropped those items from the menu.

                    2. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I know that there was a thread recently discussing several varieties of zha jiang mien and the many spellings-

                      here it is:


                      1. 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!

                        1. re: cvhound

                          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

                          1. re: cvhound

                            I'm pretty sure 'gook' or 'guk' means soup

                            1. re: cycle10

                              Yes, you're absolutely correct. "Gook" or "guk" is a generic term for soup. "Tang" is less commonly used, but also describes a kind of soup, like "gomtang" or oxtail soup.

                        2. 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

                          1. 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!

                            8 Replies
                            1. re: Lina

                              Which soup did you order?

                              The lunch I had there, I don't remember getting any panchan besides good kimchi.

                              Seoul Gom Tang
                              3801 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Yes, the main panchan is radish kimchi. I thought it was excellent. The cucumber one wasn't too bad when I had it. I'm also curious which soup the OP had. Their specialty soup is just a bland beef broth, which you season to your liking at the table.

                                1. re: DezzerSF

                                  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.

                                  1. re: Lina

                                    Yeah, I'd stick with Pyung Chang for soon dobu. I've seen fish or shrimp paste in a few kimchi recipes, but I don't like it much either.

                                    1. re: Lina

                                      Seoul Gom Tang specializes in gom tang. I wouldn't judge them by anything else.

                                      I'd go to Pyung Chang for soon dobu.

                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        Has Sahn Maru fallen out of favor? I used to like their soon dobu better than Pyung Chang's (although I loved them both).

                                        1. re: Lina

                                          Sahn Maru's still good, but I've never tried the soon dobu there. They do a great job with black goat stew.