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Awesome Korean food in the East Bay?

kachoo Dec 23, 2009 09:25 AM


Can anyone suggest a good korean place for lunch? My friend is in town from London and totally craving Korean food... I love it, but not sure if I want to do the BBQ thing, so I'm not sure where to go. Oakland/Berkeley area preferred!

Thanks so much!!!


  1. a
    abstractpoet Dec 23, 2009 07:06 PM

    My favorite on that stretch of Telegraph is Sura. They offer the most generous panchan spread I've ever seen (18 or more of the complimentary little dishes at dinner time; a few less at lunch). It's a nice all-purpose Korean place, so you don't have to commit to any one type of thing--the various stews are excellent; the BBQ is very good (esp. the short ribs, which they slice thin); the sauteed pork belly with squid is outstanding; the seafood pancakes are also quite good.

    Lunch is an especially good deal. I also find Sura to be a brighter, more pleasant space than some of the other Korean restaurants in the area. Nice people, too.

    4869 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

    16 Replies
    1. re: abstractpoet
      Robert Lauriston Dec 24, 2009 09:39 AM

      Sura's selection of panchan is the biggest I've encountered, but the main dishes have seemed a bit bland compared with Ohgane's. That pork and squid was maybe the best dish of the ones I've ordered there.

      1. re: Robert Lauriston
        lexdevil Dec 24, 2009 10:22 AM

        I think I'd say that the flavors at Sura are more delicate, rather than bland. The pork belly/squid boke um is, as Robert says, a stand out. I also think that their galbi jim is really good. I often get their yu keh jang at lunch--there's nothing bland about it at all. Pretty incendiary, in fact.

        If you're avoiding bbq, I would go to Sahn Maru for their excellent black goat stew (best I've had) or the sweet pork stew with potatoes and dates. These dishes are large, so one dish and a starter will be enough for two people. Neither of these are on the lunch menu, so they are not cheap. There is, however, a nice pork and potato stew (not the one with the dates) on the lunch menu that is both good and inexpensive. I would also consider Sura, both for its amazing panchan array, and for one of the items mentioned above.

        Ohgane offers an all you can eat buffet at lunch (at least they did last time I went). It is a very good value, but not Ohgane's best food. The regular menu is available as well. Ohgane has the best yu keh jang of the three, but it's only on their dinner menu, so it's spendy, compared to the soups on the lunch menu ($12.95, as opposed to the $7.95-10.95 for the soups on the lunch menu).

        1. re: lexdevil
          kc72 Dec 24, 2009 12:06 PM

          They still offer the lunch buffet (M-F 11:30-2:30?), just had it yesterday. Pretty good value for $9.95 -- 2 types of kimchi, the fried potatoes w/ a sweet glaze, fried fish, fried mandu, spicy rice cake, fried rice, kimchi fried rice, chicken, kalbi, sauteed string beans, jap chae, soodubu, bi bim bap station and a few other things.Pretty busy yesterday w/ korean families and Kaiser ppl, so food was always coming out and hot.

          They also have AYCE meat option M-W nights for boneless beef short tib, bbq chicken and pork belly

          1. re: kc72
            Robert Lauriston Dec 24, 2009 04:45 PM

            You're talking about Ohgane? How much is the AYCE special? First I've heard of that.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              kc72 Dec 24, 2009 04:58 PM

              From their Yelp page: Mon-Wed All You Can Meat $19.95 per. 3 options

              From a flyer I picked up inside the restaurant: All You Can Eat BBQ M-W All Day $19.95+tax
              Boneless Short Rib (Marinated or Seasoned)
              Boneless Chicken or
              Uncured Bacon (Pork Belly)

              On the back of the flyer, there's a free beverage (soft drink, beer or soju) coupon.

      2. re: abstractpoet
        drewskiSF Dec 31, 2009 08:29 AM

        Sura's food is decent, but on my visits their service has been pretty bad. Also, despite winning the banchan wars for quantity of dishes, there's always been a few of the dishes that shouldn't have been served (i.e. old japchae with rock hard noodles). They do have one of the thicker cuts of sam gyup sal in the area, which I definitely prefer.

        1. re: drewskiSF
          abstractpoet Dec 31, 2009 10:43 AM

          I've never had a problem with unfresh panchan at Sura. And the service I would characterize as quite friendly, but maybe a bit inattentive at times. There is that little button that you can press, though, which I believe makes something light up up front, so the staff knows you need something.

          1. re: abstractpoet
            drewskiSF Dec 31, 2009 01:01 PM

            It didn't have anything to do with getting their attention. They knew what I needed, it just didn't happen. Like getting the banchan 15-20 minutes after the main dishes were served.

            1. re: drewskiSF
              bbulkow Jan 1, 2010 09:02 AM

              That's awful! Panchan after the main dish?!?!?!

              1. re: bbulkow
                drewskiSF Jan 2, 2010 03:11 PM

                Yeah. That was after 3-4 reminders. By far the worst service I've gotten in any Korean restaurant in my lifetime. Unfortunately I know others who have had similar experiences here as well; I don't know if it's a coincidence, but they are Korean American as well. With all the other Korean options in the area, Sura is off the rotation.

                1. re: drewskiSF
                  abstractpoet Jan 2, 2010 07:06 PM

                  Again, I feel the need to say that I've eaten at Sura probably about 10 times and have always had OK to quite good service. The worst thing I can fault them for is occasionally being a bit slow bringing more water.

                  Sorry you had a bad experience, but I really don't think it's necessarily representative.

                  1. re: abstractpoet
                    drewskiSF Jan 3, 2010 06:05 PM

                    I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on Sura.

                    I'm glad you've been happy with your visits. I've been a few times and service has always been OK to poor. Like I said this was not an isolated incident and from multiple data-points (not all mine) I think it is, sadly, somewhat representative.

                    All of the negative reports I've gotten have been from Koreans like myself and I've never heard any really negative service comments from non-Koreans. My conclusion from this is that they don't try as hard if they know you're Korean. I won't speculate why, but it hasn't worked forme and no Korean friends that I know that have eaten there (3 people/families. I didn't dine with them) are planning to return anytime soon.

                    It's sad because, as I lead with in my OP, the food is decent. Just not enough to overcome the bad service, for me.

                    Cheers and hope you had a great New Year!

                    1. re: drewskiSF
                      abstractpoet Jan 3, 2010 07:12 PM

                      Fair enough. That's interesting what you say about Koreans actually getting worse service there. I feel like I got worse service at certain Chinese restaurants in Taiwan (as a Chinese American) compared to, say, Caucasian diners -- but haven't heard of that being the case at Asian restaurants in the States.

                      For what it's worth, I was introduced to Sura by a Korean American friend who had raved about it, so, well, I guess we do just need to agree to disagree!

          2. re: drewskiSF
            twocents Jan 2, 2010 10:15 PM

            Sura upped the baseline for quantity of banchan when they opened... but since then I think I've had an equal number at both Ohgane and Sahn Maru at dinner (that is to say, 17 or 18 dishes). That said, on two very recent visits to Casserole house I have been very favorably impressed by the taste and quality of the banchan there. Despite the fewer dishes (12-14), I would rate the average taste as superior to Ohgane, Sahn maru and Sura, although I have not been to the latter for a long time.

            1. re: twocents
              Robert Lauriston Jan 3, 2010 11:11 AM

              We've had I think up to 24-25 panchan at Sura. They bring out 18-19 and after they see that we're not picky eaters they bring out some more, including the more challenging ones such as kimchi with oysters.

              I have to get back to Casserole House.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                drewskiSF Jan 3, 2010 05:53 PM

                Kimchi with oysters. Yum! Very refreshing, imo. I guess growing up with it makes it less challenging :)

        2. jillyju Dec 23, 2009 09:39 AM

          I'm a big fan of a few different Korean places in Oakland. On Telegraph, not too far from 51st, you have Sahn Maru, with delicious soft tofu soups along with good, generous panchan, and really gracious owners/servers. Just to the left of Sahn Maru is Casserole House, with amazing housemade kimchee and soups/casseroles. Over on Broadway near 40th, there is Ohgane. They have a daily buffet which might appeal, but I recommend ordering from the menu. Everything I've eaten there was top quality. Finally, over at 372 Grand Avenue is Jong Ga House, with excellent dol sot bibimbap (try the eel!), extremely fresh panchan (and lots of them) and a yummy kimchee pancake.

          3915 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611

          Sahn Maru Korean BBQ
          4315 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

          Jong Ga House
          372 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

          Casserole House
          4301 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

          2 Replies
          1. re: jillyju
            Robert Lauriston Dec 23, 2009 09:45 AM

            Casserole House's specialty is jungol, Sahn Maru's is black goat stew (which you need to order for two or more to get the whole nine yards).

            For soon dobu I like Pyung Chang, I love the rustic furniture and bowls and their soft tofu seems particularly delicate.

            Pyung Chang Tofu House
            4701 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

            Casserole House
            4301 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              jillyju Dec 23, 2009 10:09 AM

              I'm glad you mentioned Tofu House. I tend to forget about it, but I agree that their soon dobu is the best of the bunch.

          2. Robert Lauriston Dec 23, 2009 09:36 AM

            Ohgane's my overall favorite, they do a lot of different dishes well. They have a lunch buffet but I don't think it's as good as ordering a la carte.

            Jong Ga House is also very good.

            Lots of Korean places are sort of one-hit wonders. More options:


            3915 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611

            Jong Ga House
            372 Grand Ave, Oakland, CA 94610

            1. wolfe Dec 23, 2009 09:35 AM

              Old Lauriston list.

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