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Korean recommendation in Berkeley or Oakland

Most of the discussions on Korean restaurants here are pretty old. I'm looking for your current favorites -- taking a couple who have just moved here from the East Coast and want to try Korean w/ banchan.

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  1. Bowl'd has the highest quality though not the biggest selection. Too bad Sura closed.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      I once took my coworkers there for lunch, and it was met with resounding disapproval. Not saying it's bad; I go there myself once in a blue moon, but I don't know if it's a great place to bring a first-timer.

      Ohgane isn't bad.

      1. re: dunstable

        What did they dislike? Were they familiar with Korean food? (I'm not, but I liked Bowl'd.)

        1. re: Glencora

          They mostly were not. The ones who ordered the bibimbap thought it was too bland, and the ones who ordered the jjigaes hated it outright. A couple of them now say, "Oh, Korean food is disgusting," based on that sample, which I regret very much.

          Newcomers to Korean food should definitely get a meat dish like bulgoki or kalbi, in my opinion.

          1. re: dunstable

            Seems more like you're commenting on introducing newcomers to Korean food in general rather than on anything very specific about Bowl'd.

            I often order their kimchi jigae and don't find it radically different than other places'. Bibimbap is fundamentally bland unless you order spicy pork or some other highly seasoned meat.

            Where do you think is better?

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Yeah, like I said, it wasn't an attack on Bowl'd's quality; if it were a bit faster I'd probably go there all the time for lunch.

              I think a place that is more focused on the BBQ is probably a better idea for a first-timer.

              1. re: dunstable

                The new Bowl'd branch in the former Sura space is more focused on grilled meats.

                Personally I prefer not to grill at the table, in my experience the kitchen does a better job than I do.

            2. re: dunstable

              I always thought of bibmbap as a good starter Korean dish, but I guess not for everyone. Did they add any of the sauce provided?

              For the OP, Bowl'd does have some BBQ items, if you wanted to steer your guests in that direction.

              1. re: drewskiSF

                That might have been another mistake on their/my part. They really heaped on the gochujang, so that they were essentially eating gochujangbap. Personally I am not ever in favor of dousing my food in that sort of heat, no matter the cuisine, so I am not the right person to judge, but I mean what's the point of cooking anything, if all you're gonna taste is the hot sauce.

              2. re: dunstable

                I don't really like Korean food, and I like Pyung Chang Tofu House. I don't know how they stack up on the quantity of banchan, but the quality and variety is good.

                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                  I think Pyung Chang gives 6-8 items. Best soondobu I've had and the rustic tables and stoneware are fun.

        2. Best and most interesting:
          FuseBox
          Address: 2311A Magnolia St, Oakland, CA 94607
          Phone:(510) 444-3100
          http://fuseboxoakland.com/

          Ohgane only if you insist upon a ton of sugar in your gojuchang. We aren't fans of that style.
          Address: 3915 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94611
          Phone:(510) 594-8300

          Bowl'd, in several locations run by the Ohgane second gen, has a more refined Korean fusion menu, noticeably less sugar.
          Bowl'd Albany:
          1479 Solano Ave, Albany, CA 94706
          (510) 526-6223

          Bowl'd BBQ formerly Copan formerly Sura
          4869 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA 94609
          Phone number (510) 654-2000

          Spoon
          933 Ashby Ave. Berkeley, CA 94710
          Phone number (510) 704-9555

          2 Replies
          1. re: jaiko

            Fusebox has the most ambitious and precise cooking, but you get very small portions of just a few panchan, and only with certain dishes. Not the best place to introduce newbies to the traditional banchan cornucopia.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Jeez, I hated Fusebox. Cold as the tomb, ridiculous and amateurish service, food was just OK. There was a ferment-y seaweedy condiment I loved, other than that I was not moved.

              Except for their chix wings. I would step over my own mother for those wings. Haven't been back though because of the rest of it.

          2. If they're looking for lots of banchan, I'd add Jong Ga House on Grand by the lake to the list.

            15-20 and I've had no duds like you often got at Sura (e.g. old japchae with hard noodles) and other spots competing for "most banchan plates" with your dinner.

            1 Reply
            1. re: drewskiSF

              Good idea, Jong Ga might be the ideal choice for this purpose. Charming space and nice people.

            2. Agree w/ those who like Bowl'd (I have found Spoon less good, the connection notwithstanding). One thing to add for the OP re taking your East Coat transplants: the people who run Bowl'd are especially welcoming and gracious re folks who might be less familiar with Korean food (eg. they name all the panchan when they bring them).

              Before Bowl'd opened, my husband (uneasy re Korean food, really all food that was unfamiliar to him) never wanted to head to a Korean restaurant. But he's happy to go to Bowl'd, and every time orders the grilled spicy pork, which he quite likes; and the only panchan he dips into is the steamed broccoli! More of the rest for me. :)

              p.s. I can see a new thread developing, as I type: where to take fussy eaters in the Bay Area!

              1. We ended up going to Ohgane. It was OK but I was more impressed by Jong Ga House on Grand,now that I think about it. The banchan were hit or miss, and the main dishes were tasty but too similar. There was nothing spicy about the spicy pork!