Best known for its bountiful banchan and ganjang gaejang (marinated raw crab), Soban has been on my list of Koreatown haunts to test drive for quite some time. The Astronomer and I, along with our friends Diep and Tien, finally came in for dinner a few weeks back. It was about time.
As soon as we made our selections from the plastic-bound menu, three dishes for four persons, a parade of banchan made its way to our table. While the spread was as plentiful as anticipated, the contents left a lot to be desired.
Mostly comprised of stalks, stems, and leafy greens, the banchan tasted muted somehow, missing the punchy flavors of fermentation and spice that I was really looking forward to. We didn’t request seconds of any of ’em, not even the pancake. For me, the best banchan in town has got to be at Mapo Kkak Doo Gee.
The whole raw crab marinated in herb-infused soy sauce arrived soon after. It smelled so strongly of the sea that this table full of seafood lovers was a little hesitant to dig in. Now, that is a first.
The crab’s jellied flesh was pretty awesome, but the marinade’s bitter tones and the crab’s questionable freshness kept all swoonage in check. Our table was crestfallen, to say the least.
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In honor of the Olympic Games, I present to you Olympic Noodle: the homiest of restaurants serving the homiest of foods.
In addition to notable noodles and delightful dumplings, Olympic Noodle is home to the best kimchi I’ve ever tasted. While I’d normally be pretty bummed with just one lowly radish banchan, the kimchi’s unparalleled excellence made up for it. So crisp, so well balanced, so moreish.
The Astronomer and I were joined by our friend Alex this afternoon, which meant we could order three dishes—the portions here are huge. Fresh-from-the-steamer mandu was the first to arrive.
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Tis the season for turkey, but I can’t get my mind off of Korean fried chicken.
A few years back, I’d frequent “KFC” joints several times a month, power ranking each spot as I went along. I lost my momentum and enthusiasm somewhere along the way, but quickly picked up where I left off at The Prince. Fingers sticky and lips burning, it was easy to remember how these deep-fried birds found their way into my heart.
According to the restaurant’s website, The Prince was originally known as The Windsor. The interior, forever frozen in the roaring ’20s, boasts a genuinely stately feel with ruby red accents at every turn—from the carpet to the wallpaper, lamp shades, and table cloths.
As luck would have it, our party of five was seated right next to the pianist. He warmed our hearts and spirits with his rousing renditions of “Let it Be” and “Hotel California.” The best seat in the house!
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My Korean food cravings fall into three neat categories: meaty, greasy, and homey.
When all I want is a feast of flame-licked meat, DonDay and Kang Hodong Baekjeong never fail to please. If it’s kick-back bar food that satisfies my mood, OB Bear and Dwit Gol Mok always treat me right. And to scratch my comfort food itch, I let the ladies at Ma Dang Gook Soo, Jeon Ju, and my latest obsession, Jun Won, do their thang.
Jun Won makes the kind of everyday fare that Korean moms and grandmas prepare for their brood. Opened in 1994 by Jung Ye Jun, the restaurant can be difficult to find. I parked and entered through the back, following the signs that read “Korean Restaurant,” of course.
The seafood-centric bill of fare was printed onto place mats, but before getting down to deciding what to order, my dining mates Lien, Natasha, and I took a moment to relish in the banchan scattered about the table. Jun Won’s regulars swing by three to four times each week, so Ms. Jun makes sure to change up these little nibbles every day. Fermented squid, several varieties of kimchi, wilted sprouts, marinated cucumbers, and fish cakes are constantly rotated in and out.
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