I was in town recently and my mom, who's Korean, insisted on taking me to Cho Sun Ok. I was kind of startled since even when she visits me in L.A. (South Korea's foothold in the U.S.), she demands to be taken for Korean food -- as long as it's not barbecue.
The appeal at CSO, she said, is not the meat but the way they make fried rice on the same cooking surface afterward, mixing in your leftover vegetables in a spicy hash. A few restaurants in L.A. do this too, and it's a nice way to end the meal.
So we headed up Lincoln at lunchtime, and found the restaurant moderately busy with other Koreans, most having what we were about to have. We ordered thinly sliced, unmarinated beef (sorry, I forget what the menu called this), and our waitress poured a small puddle of sesame oil onto the cracked surface of our stone griddle, which was balanced over a portable gas tabletop burner.
Unfortunately, the meat was too lean and dried out quickly in the cooking. There was a respectable spread of panchan (side dishes), but the kimchi was unbelievably bland. This is fermented spicy cabbage, people!
But these faults were redeemed with the rice course... the meat was set aside, the vegetable panchan (not the potatoes or zucchini) were added to the pan, and the rice absorbed some flavor and got and toasty in parts, like a kind of Korean paella.
My mom says this is the only place she knows of in Chicago that does this thing with the rice. I noticed a post from last year by Erik M, who noted that this place has good naeng myun (cold noodles), which are a nice meal in summer.
Some photos are on my blog: http://frimframsauce.com/blog/2008/06...
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