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Restaurants & Bars 6

SoJuBang review - downtown Oakland

Marc Wallace | Jan 21, 200404:00 PM

About a year or two ago, I was excited to see a new restaurant had opened right next door to the small post office at 15th and Franklin. The interior looked kind of kitschy from the door, but the food might have still been good.

Alas, it closed just weeks after opening, before I had a chance to try it. (I was "employment challenged" and limiting myself to dining out only once a week)

Today, as I meandered down to Mi Casa, I saw a big "Grand Opening" banner over Soju Bang. The menu in the window looked okay, so I wandered in to try it.

The decor is truly... different. The floor layout is very 50's diner style with booths, but everything is made of what looks like burnished aluminum with sworly scratches. And all of the ceiling piping is polished and exposed. Combined with the fairly loud instrumental techno, it's a weird, weird experience.

The menu itself is fairly limited. You aren't actually given one; there's just one in a plastic holder on each table. Gal bi, bul go gi, and bi bim bab; bbq spicy pork, spicy chicken, or chicken; fried cutlet of beef, pork, or chicken; chicken teriyaki; spicy pan-fried squid; and the soft tofu soup. That's it. All are $6.50 except the gal bi ($8), and come with rice and five sides.

Shredded cabbage salad and miso (!) arrived, then I ordered the "spicy soft tofu soup". When it came, I was very impressed by the presentation: nice clay bowl filled with violently boiling soup. The sides were less well presented; instead of the traditional one small bowl per side, all of the panchan was placed in two larger bowls.

The soup was quite tasty, if a bit opposite of my preferences (I prefer cooler soup with extreme spiciness, whereas this was painfully hot soup with just mild spiciness). The panchan were a bit below average, both in quantity and quality. The spinach was fairly wilted, bean sprouts were a bit soft, and the potato had that telltale pinkness that means it sat out in oxygen for too long. Rice was.. rice.

Overall, I'd say it was a bit below average, in comparison with nearby Korean spots. In terms of a Korean/Japanese hybrid, though, they did the Korean side much better than other spots (such as Ichiriki). I might return since it's closer to my work, but there's no way I'm giving up the 13th+Harrison place.

One thing to note for vegetarians: the tofu soup is not vegetarian. The menu on the table doesn't say so, but there were a lot of bites with meat-like texture. Towards the bottom I could actually see the meat. The paper menu I asked for on the way out lists it as having "tofu, vegetables, beef". Seemed more like pork to me, but hard to tell. None of the other options are remotely vegetarian. Maybe one could ask for meat to be left out of the soup, though.

Oh, and they're working on delivery; the paper menu lists "free delivery". That's a first for Korean restaurants in the area (as far as I know). Not sure how well Korean food will fare in delivery, but it's nice to have more options.

1442 Franklin, next door to the post office
Mon-Fri 11am-3pm

Oh, and for those who work near 17th+Telegraph: a new hot dog place (appropriately named "The Hot Dog Stand") just opened on that corner last Friday. 8" dogs for just under $3, chili dogs, turkey dogs, links, and fries. If you go by and make conversation, the proprietor will probably give you a coupon for a free drink. Don't know how they'll fare, competing with Top Dog just blocks away, but there you go.

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