Soul of Korea (Tampa)
I had the pleasure of having lunch at Soul of Korea yesterday. I tried it on the recommendation of a korean friend of mine who claimed it reminded him of his moms korean food. I went with two friends and we all agreed it will be a regular lunch spot for us in the future. I had the spicy seafood soup, I believe it called chompon? My companions had the marinated beef, and and rice and beef dish served in a crazy hot stone bowl. I wont even make an attempt to give the korean names for these dishes. We shared an order of the kimchi dumplings as an appetizer. I cant think of one bad thing to say about this place. The food was superb the service was very friendly, and the prices were fair for what we were served. Everything seemed homemade! I loved it and I wanted to share it with my fellow chowhounds of Tampa.
Soul of Korea
7612 N 56th St
Glad to hear that there is Korean food closer to USF/Brandon/New Tampa. Otherwise you had to hike out towards the airport or town n country. I am no expert on Korean food myself but I do dig what I have eaten so far.
Lets see: Korean food primer as best as I can tell:
The noodle soup you had i believe is pronounced jam-pong. Chinese restaurants that specialize in northeast Chinese cuisine, which really don't exist in Tampa have their version of the soup called chao ma mien. Marinated beef = bulgogi. There is also marinated and grilled short ribs = gal-bee. The rice and beef dish in a bowl is called bibimbap. If it's served in the heated stone bowl then the stone bowl is a dolsot or the dish is called "dolsot bibimbap". Did the bibimbap have a fried egg or raw egg? Hey, next time try the noodles with this really dark pork and onion sauce called ja jiang mien.
If you are into classic home-cooked Korean, this is it. They call it "Soul" of Korea for a reason, and it certainly lives up to its namesake. We no longer have to make the trek to Orlando for proper Korean, when the best is just a few minutes away here in Tampa.
Finally got to go there a couple days ago - I've been trying to find time since this thread started. Yum! Very home-cooked and authentic, as others have said. I had to ask for extra hot sauce on my fried Kimchi with pork, rice cake, and tofu, as it was a tad dry and not quite spicy enough, but they were happy to bring more and then it was sensational. (I think I looked too white for them to be willing to make it properly at first.)
I was the only customer at the time - I am really hoping this was because I was eating lunch on the late side (almost 2:00). I'd encourage other chowfolks to go and give them some business, seeing as the economy is collapsing around us and businesses are dropping like flies.
I went to Soul of Korea today. This was only my second encounter with Korean food, so I'm no expert. (The other resto was the now defunct Korea One on Folwer.) The banchan were good, but I have little to compare it to. My main dish was the "spicy beef" soup, which proved to be lacking in both spice and beef. I can appreciate that good food need not feature meat strongly and spiciness can be adjusted. Overall, though, the dish wasn't very exciting. In fact, it was rather bland. Also, it was considerably more expensive than a (typically more generous) bowl of pho.
But, I don't want to give up on this restaurant or on Korean cuisine just yet. Can anyone recommend any reliable dishes at Soul of Korea, or for the cuisine in general? Preferably those that live up to the fiery reputation of Korean food. Are there any other restaurants in Tampa where I can acquaint myself with the real thing?
re: Agent Orange
The other good Korean in town, in my and I think many others' opinion, is Sa Ri One on Cypress near Lois. I like both places - Soul of Korea is more homestyle and Sa Ri One is more polished.
I did have to ask Soul of Korea to up the spice ... they definitely have that 'white folks can't take the real thing' attitude, which frankly p*sses me off, especially since the real thing isn't really that hot (see below). However once I asked for them to make it real, they did.
Any of the Kim Chee based dishes should meet your need for spice, Bi Bim Bap is pretty much the standard 'starter' Korean dish - beef, egg, and spinach over rice, to which one adds a whole bowl of special hot sauce that they bring on the side - you mix it all up and enjoy the yumminess.
But frankly, despite its reputation, I have never found Korean food all that hot. Thai food and Indian food are designed to get *much* hotter. I would put Korean in the same category as Mexican and Chinese - i.e. cuisines that definitely use hot spices but are not ever designed to blow your head off. I don't think people who are seriously macho about hot (as I admit I am) are ever going to find those cuisines challengingly hot. Plus several of my very favorite Korean dishes, like Duk Man Do Guk, are not designed to be hot at all.
I seem to find that the northern Chinese restos that do dishes like jampong really turn up the heat. I am sweating after finishing a bowl. I think the Chinese chefs were putting actual Szechuan dried chilis in the soup broth. I dont recall the Korean places doing this but like I mentioned I am new to eating Korean but I am enjoying what I have eaten so far. Once again, it's Tampa so you are hard pressed to even find a true szechuan resto let alone northern chinese restos that do Korean crossover food. Even a city the size of Atlanta does not have that many true szechuan places either.
I guess one regret moving back from SoCal to Tampa is the lack of decent Korean joints. I already miss the all you can eat Korean BBQ places in Koreatown in LA. But, I couldnt get a decent Cuban sandwich or arroz con pollo over there either so everything has its pluses and minuses.