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Simply the best Korean meal I have eaten in decades!

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doctor k Oct 15, 2010 08:03 AM

We went to Sole Cafe last night, and it was a remarkable experience! Note to fellow Chowhounds, I grew up with a best friend who's mother was Korean, and introduced me at a young age to home style Korean cooking.
At Sole last night It literally felt like i was sitting in her kitchen 25 years ago...
The food was simply amazing, hands down the best I have seen in the Twin Cities. Kimberly Firnstahl, the owner, and one other lady are the only staff in the restaurant. The Jeyuk Bokum was perfectly spiced and cooked. Everything she makes is truly home style, and prepared from scratch. Her bahn-chan dishes were also the best and freshest I have tasted.
Kimberly came out to the table multiple times to ensure that everything was proper and to our liking.
It really felt more like being at someones home who cared for you, than at a restaurant.
If you really want to experience true home style Korean food, you owe it your self to check out Sole.
Also, Kimberly utilizes no MSG, none.

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Sole Cafe
684 Snelling Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55104

  1. AnneInMpls Oct 15, 2010 11:09 AM

    Thanks for reminding me that I should get back to Sole Cafe! I used to eat there every week, back when I worked in the area. What wonderful food! The banh-chan in particular have no equal in the Twin Cities.

    Anne

    1 Reply
    1. re: AnneInMpls
      d
      doctor k Oct 15, 2010 12:25 PM

      The banh-chan bean sprouts were unreal, they still had a crisp snap to them, she explained the process she goes through for them and it was quite detailed! In addition, her Kimchi almost made me cry it was so good. She was gracious enough to even let us buy a sizable portion. Absolutely nothing like homemade Kimchi, if you have only had the premade bottled versions available, you really have not tasted it.

    2. s
      stepawayfromthetable Oct 16, 2010 11:15 AM

      I love this place and there's a great Heavy Table review of it (link on this board in a Korean food thread). I agree about Kimberly, the owner...hands down she is the best Korean cook in the Twin Cities and so nice and fun. The food is delicious, fresh and clean tasting. I hate to admit that the decor and atmosphere do nothing to bring me into the place and as a great Korean cook (no modesty), I can make what I want at home. I do think I need to get back there this next week!

      1 Reply
      1. re: stepawayfromthetable
        s
        snoboardbabe77 Oct 19, 2010 12:06 PM

        As a Korean-American, I meant to write about our experience at Sole. My hubby (European Mutt) and I joke about the difference between our former go-to Mirror of Korea (and yes, I DO prefer this over Kings) - we think Mirror of Korea is like the greasy spoon for Korean - but it can be hit or miss since the daughter took over - but Sole in terms of true simple flavor is definitely Sole. Definitely no frills but the food speaks for itself.

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        Mirror of Korea
        761 Snelling Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55104

      2. Foureyes137 Oct 19, 2010 03:13 PM

        We went last Friday night for dinner and were SHOCKED to be the only ones dining at 8PM on a Friday. This place deserves to be packed.

        I'll leave the details to Yelp, but suffice it to say between the quality and flavor of the food and hospitality and outright awesomeness of the owner/chef...Sole has moved to the top of our list of places we love in the Twin Cites in general, and one of the three places my lazy-ass likes enough to drive to St Paul for more than once. It has surpassed Dong Yang as my favorite Korean in town.

        Highlights: The kimchis, kimchi jigae with oysters, whatever the apple/peach/dried pepper sauce she makes in-house to put on the bibimbap (here called bi bim bob), and the bibimbap itself was good (though we like the components more separated).

        Go here.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Foureyes137
          d
          doctor k Oct 20, 2010 06:53 AM

          I agree 110% Foureyes, this place should be full to the rafters every day, except Wed. which is Kimberly's only day off. Get out to this place Chowhounds and support an incredible local restaurant. jfood, would love to have you visit the place and see what you think!

        2. k
          kevin47 Oct 31, 2010 10:04 AM

          Gotta heap on the praise for this one. Wife and I went last night.

          The atmosphere is predictably no-frills, though not at all dingy. The service was extremely friendly. On the recommendation of the waitress, I opted for the Jeyuk Bokkeum, and the chef (owner?) came out to confirm my desired spice level. Wife ordered the noodly stir-fry and we split some dumpling soup.

          My dish was outstanding. I am accustomed to rating Asian stir-fries on the quality of the seasonings, and tolerating the meat as a conduit for the flavor. This pork was incredibly tender, with just a bit of sear in the right spots. The spice level was right on, and it had a nice sweetness to it that felt organic, rather than cloying.

          The wife's noodles were very good as well. A much more complicated flavor than I am used to from noodle stir-fries.

          The dumpling soup was perfectly fine, but wifey fell in love with it, and I found myself gravitating to my own dish, as well as the delicious accessory dishes. The latter usually strains my ability to identify foods without introduction, but I can say the tofu and kimchi were standouts. We were even offered seconds.

          This is delicious food, and people should be eating it. For at least a half an hour, we were the only patrons in the restaurant. That's not cool.

          1. m
            Maggie19 Nov 4, 2010 08:40 AM

            We went there Oct 8th (Friday night) around 6:30 - We were the only people in the restaurant . We were done at 7:30 and still were the only people there. The lighting is awful with nothing but fluorescent tube lighting. The tables and chairs look like they came from a Country Kitchen, no tablecloths or placemats, and the little stage looked to be perfect for Karoke....which I guess that what it was used for....Having said all of that ...the menu/service/quality of prepared items was just outstanding. Had the Kalbi (beef short ribs) - just excellent. Really liked their kimchi as well. Nice selection of condiments served. We also had a seafood stew type dish that had an amazing red (curry-like) sauce that was satisfyingly hot and flavorful. Wish them luck and I hope that they can make a few simple changes to the space to make it feel more inviting.

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            Country Kitchen
            7849 42nd Ave N, Minneapolis, MN 55427

            1 Reply
            1. re: Maggie19
              f
              faith Nov 5, 2010 01:07 PM

              I haven't eaten there yet, but phoned and got their website...www.passporttokorea.com

              not much veggie stuff on there but hopefully they could leave out meat if requested..love that they don't use msg..

            2. b
              babaoriley7 Nov 13, 2010 06:09 AM

              We tried Sole cafe this week and really enjoyed it as well. The comments about the hospitality are spot on, the quality of food as well. Unfortunately the place was pretty empty as well we were one of two tables in the restaurant.

              The amount of food was really a good value - $8 for any of their lunch options.

              BTW, the pickled cucumbers are really really good.

              2 Replies
              1. re: babaoriley7
                d
                discus Nov 13, 2010 02:06 PM

                Wife and i tried this place Friday evening and enjoyed the food thoroughly. We're Korean food aficianados and make the rounds with Hoban, Mirror of Korea, Korean Cafe, etc. Both the Kalbee and the salted mackerol were outright succulent. The appetizer dishes were very nice and the hostess was so gracious to keep these plates filled. Only two other tables on a Friday evening - so I hope fellow Chowhounds come out to support this place.

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                Mirror of Korea
                761 Snelling Ave N, Saint Paul, MN 55104

                1. re: discus
                  d
                  doctor k Nov 15, 2010 11:05 AM

                  discus, I could not agree with you more! Chowhounds, if you are in the mood for Korean, this really is the place to go...
                  We pride ourselves on the little places that are like no others, if this place is to continue we need to get out there and support them!

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