First-rate Korean in SF?
Thank you for this thread and recommendations. Won't get to many of these within the next month, but will come back to report later.
My Tofu House is always packed. Haven't been back in a while. We remember the soondubu being not as good as PyeongChang, but they used to offer yellow crocker in their banchan spread.
Not recommendations: This may be obvious, but don't trust the 4 stars, 500+ reviews for Mama's Tofu House in South San Francisco. Bland banchan and jap chae, tough galbi, okay tofu soup. Stone Korean Kitchen in 4 Embarcadero Center is not good.
Korean restaurants tend to do one or 2 things very well, so you won't find one place that excels at many dishes.
My Tofu House in the inner Richmond has the best soondooboo.
Um Ma Son has my favorite "home cooked" dishes, very clean flavors. Can't BBQ at the table. This is a hidden gem. Great for soups, bi bim bap, etc.
Muguboka on Balboa is another gem, solid food overall, my favorite ojingeo bokkeum (spicy stir-fried squid) in town.
New Korean House in Japantown has my favorite hae jang gook in town. Their soups in general are great. Avoid the BBQ, its mediocre.
To Hyang has, in my opinion, slipped a bit since the Anthony Bourdain visit. I've always ordered whatever specials they have. It used to be consistently good, lately it's hit or miss.
Seoul Garden in J-town has my favorite jumuluk galbi BBQ. Not a fan of anything else there, but it is well worth a visit for the delicious jumuluk galbi.
Wooden Charcoal Korean Barbecue on Geary in the Richmond is my go-to place for BBQ galbi & bulgogi.
After waiting a really long time post-Bourdain visit, I went back to To Hyang again for the first time this past Friday. Very quiet night for them, which was a little unsettling.
Overall I thought it was about as good as it's been in the past. My strategy with this restaurant is to stick with either the specials or uncomplicated classics like kimchi jigae, and so far have not really been disappointed. My friends were not feeling that adventurous (one hates oxtail) and so we went with the latter route, though we got a lot of dishes I think are probably not their specialty.
The 5 of us over-ordered and got:
Kimchi pancake - about as good as I remember it, a little less crispy than I like it but a good enough version
Fried chicken wings: new to me, quite good, nice and crispy, no sauce
Jap chae with veggies - unremarkable but fine; I wouldn't have ordered this but someone at the table wanted noodles. (Not trying to put this version down - is there really a way to make a truly stellar jap chae?)
Bibimbap (don't remember the meat here, maybe seafood) -again this was ordered to please a newbie to the cuisine. Kind of hard to eat bibimbap family-style and I don't remember if I tried much of it.
Ojinguh bokum - everyone at the table enjoyed this. I thought it was better than the first time I tried it here.
Soon doobu with seafood - people liked this too I think, although this is not a soondoobu joint.
Dak dori tang - hadn't tried this here before; very good. For me this was the highlight of the dinner, especially so because I needed something to clear my clogged sinuses.
Banchan were generally the usual suspects but there was one that I think was a chayote or other squash, and also a salted and preserved clam dish instead of the crispy anchovies usually in this slot. Nice. Tried the date-infused soju, very interesting.
Still have to try the yuk hae and the oxtail dish.
Generally I've found Korean food in Oakland better and more diverse than in SF, but I had a great meal at Namu Gaji. It was a special menu, haven't tried the regular menu yet.
Toyose's fried chicken is better than I've found in Oakland, other dishes were average at best.
The selection and quality of banchan at Han Il Kwan was as good as I've had anywhere except Sura. Housemade fish cakes are the best I've had. Crab in black bean paste, spicy pork, and bi bim bap in stone bowl were all excellent. Overall I'd say it's similar to Ohgane.
Two Korean places in SF I haven't tried that have had good reports here are To Hyang and Hanuri: