this past week i dined at sahn maru in oakland with two friends. one of them had seen a recent check please! bay area episode featuring the restaurant and wanted to go. i tried going here for my birthday a few years ago but unfortunately they were closed, and we dined uncomfortably at the nearby koryo, enduring execrable service and food that was not better than what is available in SF.
we ordered the single serving of the black goat stew, heuk yum so tang, even though i have read that the 2+ serving is much better, because my friends wanted the kimchi chigae. they wanted to order the vegetarian version but i insisted on getting it with pork. it's not that i make a noteworthy kimchi chigae at home, but i never really order this in restaurants because its what i make when my kimchi has gone south a bit too much and needs to be cooked, and pork is a natural foil for its sourness.
we also ordered the deh ji gam ja jim, which is listed on the menu as "braised pork in chili sauce with dates and sweet potato." but i swear these were just russet potatoes. the braised pork was chunks of pork neck, and it seemed like a dry version of gamjatang, the "potato soup" that features potatoes and pork neck in a spicy broth.
oh and we also ordered the bin deh duk, or mung bean pancakes.
i really enjoyed the pancakes. they can be very grainy because of the ground mung beans, but these must have had a good amount of rice flour or blended sweet rice. it was tender and a bit chewy, married well with the soy vinegar dipping sauce.
the black goat stew was delicious, better than the version i had at ohgane last year, especially with the addition of the ground mustard seed, prepared hot mustard, and chili dipping sauce that came with it. but i really wanted to try the full on version for 2+ people, which i hear is far superior. the meat was tender and in thinnish slices rather than the shreds at ohgane. the chewy skin was a toothsome treat. the veggies were all green onion and perilla leaves. i don't know what the full version has, but i envision enoki mushrooms and other vegetables not in this single serving.
kimchi chigae is kimchi chigae to me. as far as oakland restaurants go, i much preferred the version at jong ga house last summer. this one did have a very generous helping of thinly sliced pork belly, so i'm glad i insisted on having meat in it.
the braised pork neck was much milder than it looked, and i swear it was russet rather than sweet potatoes. the meat was giving and tender, with a mild heat. it was good.
i can't have been too impressed with the panchan, since none in particular stands out, and we never asked for any refills. there was mung bean jelly, decent kimchi, broccoli which i did not eat, the tiny dried anchovies (which never disappoint, really), seasoned fish cake...and i can't remember what else.
service was very hospitable. i couldn't help staring at the weird clay nude figures on the wall which reminded me of pre-grecian ancient venus or demeter-like fertility goddesses. they made me feel guilty for not finishing my rice.
i enjoyed the meal very much, but i still remember my dinner at ohgane last august as perhaps my favorite korean meal in the bay area. my search through oakland's korean restaurants goes at a snails pace, but i would like to come back here again for the full treatment of the goat stew, and to try their sundubu. or back to jong ga for their "five layer" pork belly cooked with ultra ripe kimchi on a table top griddle.
any recent thoughts on sahn maru?