Had to meet an ex-coworker for lunch, and remebered the posting about a Korean hole-in-the-wall from July, so suggested it and we tried it out.
"Hole in the wall" definitely fits this place. We arrived just before noon to see an empty room with five tables and chairs. A small place, maybe 12'x24' (half of it being the kitchen). Korean newspapers scattered around, otherwise looking like a rundown diner. We sat down and awaited menus.
I had planned to deviate from my standard (bi bim bop), mostly because since the last two places I was at, I had drooled over the soups. (it also took a lot of searching to even find bi bim bop on the menu, as it wasn't in the "lunch" section). I tried the spicy beef with vegetables soup, friend tried the spare ribs.
We waited. And waited. And waited. It was just the one old lady, and clearly she was working very hard on our food. It was going to be fresh. But it was a little scary. We were the only ones in the place (at least for the hour before we were served our main courses). And serving times in downtown areas tend to be quick. But we heard the appropriate cooking noises, so just chatted and hoped it would turn out okay.
The panchan arrived first (after 40mins or so). An impressive display, though, of eleven different offerings. Most were tasty, with bean sprouts, potatoes, and seaweed (or spinach) the best. The kimchee was milder than some, but had a rich flavour and aroma that is sometimes missing. Only one disappointment: some sort of rectilinear root vegetable that tasted like a salt lick. Still, 10/11 is a good ratio, and the sheer variety was impressive in a place that probably serves only a few people each day.
Food arrived. The ribs were an enormous meal ("twice what you get at other restaurants"). I can't compare the soup, having never tasted it before, but I wouldn't hesitate to order it again -- nicely shredding beef with veggies in a spicy, peppery, red soup. Just what I was hoping it would taste like.
Fresh and hot, and there was something pleasant about watching her fill the panchan dishes one.. by one.. by one... and hearing/smelling the ribs frying. But if I had been more hungry it would have been frustrating.
$20 pre-tip for both with drinks. Very quiet, since nobody was there. Amazing quantity of food for the price. But it did take a looong time. Bring a book or a really good friend (or a really good familiar book ;-)).
I tried to get a business card, or menu, or even the *name* of the place, but was unable to. The english proficiency of the owner/chef was effectively zero. The sign outside merely says "under new management, grand opening".
I'm not sure how this place will survive. It can't handle even small groups with just the one person there, and is unlikely to draw much of the standard downtown crowd. We arrived at 11:50 and didn't leave until 1:30 -- not because we chatted after lunch, that's just how long it took. It's way off the beaten path, and (as far as I can tell) doesn't even have a name.
But if I have the time, I'll sneak over there now and then. The panchan variety, freshness, and sheer homeliness makes it worth the time.
probably open lunches M-F only