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Korea House in SF's Japantown

Fine | Jun 10, 200402:58 AM

I ate my first Korean meal here back in the sixties (only yesterday) and have returned many times over the years, especially when it stayed open late--a perfect post-performance spot. Like most such long-exisitng places, it's run hot and cold, though "hot" a lot more often.

Three of us ate here a couple of weeks ago and the meal was close to perfection.

First to arrive was a plate of what appeared to be octopus rings--chewy-tender, satisfying, not really in need of the accompanying sauce. Next to it a platter of delectable not-quite-begining-to-ferment cabbage leaves. (One of my companions immediately started to panic at the possibility that this was it for the small side dishes, but he needn't have; they were, if you will, the "first course" of the appetizers, of which eight soon appeared, comprising the usual tasty assortment of kimchees, marinated daikon strips, and various other delights.)

There followed a plate of fried, salted seaweed leaves, small bowls of tasty broth, and another plate with steaklike chunks of fabulously fresh-tasting, egg-battered, delicate white fish.

Finally, our orders arrived! The raw skate with cold noodles, classic tofu-chile casserole, and chap (or jap) chae (glass noodles in a slightly sweet mixture of garlic, vegetables, and beef--one of the few nonspicy dishes offered at most Korean dinner houses) were all delicious; the marinated pork, charcoal-grilled in the kitchen, was tasty and tender enough but less exciting than the other dishes and most neglected by us all. It needed something for contrast: My mental tastebuds flashed on perhaps a lettuce wrap with charred onion garnish.

With rice, tea, a sliced orange, and two large hot sakes, the bill before tip was about $70. The satisfaction level was about triple that.

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