The Korean restaurants lining Telegraph Avenue in Oakland are oft recommended for late dining. Showing up before 6pm felt weird to me, but we did just that on tuesday night and were greeted warmly by the two female staff.
We ordered three dishes, and the food soon started to flow fast and furious. First of the included starters was the chewy vegetable pancake. A glimpse of a section of it flying by after a dip in the soy-vinegar sauce can be seen in the lower quadrant of the image linked below. Then we enjoyed the seaweed soup, savory and thick with kelp. The line-up of panchan included marinated broccoli florets, napa kimchi, slivered fish cake*, tiny fried fish and fresh jalapeño chilis, zucchini kimchi, shredded potato*, sesame-scented bean sprouts, and seaweed salad*. While none were that unique, they were very fresh and nicely balanced (* were favorites), and were not as salty nor garlicky letting the natural flavor shine through.
The spicy barbecued chicken topped with a sprinkle of white sesame seeds and chopped scallions was as good as crimson promised. Tender chunks of boneless dark meat were juicy and only mildly hot with smoky highlights. I liked that the sticky saucing was not candy-sweet.
The dried seaweed-topped seafood dol sot bibimbap crackled and hissed in its blazing hot stonepot. We were rewarded with a golden brown, crackly rice crust. While the rice was absolutely perfect, the seafood (shrimp, squid, green-lipped mussel) was dryish and marred by some bitter zucchini. I think I'd get a non-seafood version next time.
The sauteed fresh bacon with vegetables in spicy sauce was quite good too. This turned out to be low on vegetables (fresh mushrooms, onions and carrots) and heavy on bacon . . . not that we're complaining. The sprigs of cilantro and slices of fresh jalapeño were a nice touch, lifting the otherwise very heavy dish with their fragrance. This was medium-spicy despite the fresh chilis with most of the seasoning coming from the red pepper paste. I would have liked some garlic zip in there, but Francesc disagreed with me. The puddle of melted lard on the sizzling iron platter might dissuade some but don't miss trying this sometime with some plain steamed rice.
Dessert was some sweet rice water with pinenuts. The tab was quite reasonable, $46 including two Hite beers, tax and tip, and we had ordered enough to feed another person easily.
My overall impression is that this is a solid place and value-priced. The room is simple but light and well-kept. I'd love to hear other recs for favorite dishes here, e.g., has anyone tried Lee's version of black goat stew?
Lee's BBQ dinner photos -
3838 Telegraph Ave. (opposite Macarthur BART parking lot)
Lee's BBQ vs. Ohgane inquiry -
Crimson's original post on the lunch special -