[HeraldNet – Jessi Loerch] Eating at a Korean restaurant is always a bit of a risk for my husband and me. His mom, Sun, is from Korea and she’s an excellent and prolific cook. He grew up with the flavors of Korean food. From the time I first met his parents about 15 years ago, I’ve been happily discovering Korean food, too. But before that, I’d never tasted it.
Now, I’ve tasted plenty and I love it. But all of my tastes for Korean food are shaped by Sun’s beautifully prepared food. So when I eat at a new Korean place, I’m picky. My husband, too.
Recently, some friends invited us to check out a Korean place they’d heard of: The Korea House in Bothell. Korea House doesn’t look like much from outside. But, once you walk in, it’s a nice restaurant. It’s cozy, with tables set up to accommodate a single couple or a huge family gathering. We ended up at a large table with stools. I like the stools. The table seemed to large for just the four of us, but I soon changed my mind.
We started off by ordering an appetizer of Hae Mul Paa Jun ($12.95). When Sun makes it, we just call it Korean pancakes and it’s one of my favorite things she makes. Her version is thin, somewhere between crepe and pancake. It’s made with eggs and green onions, and whatever else she has handy. This version, while having a similar flavor, is more quiche-like. It was extremely thick and made with a variety of seafood. I loved it.
Jerry was not impressed. “Mom’s are better,” he told me. I argued that Sun’s aren’t better, just different. But Jerry stood by his decision. Fine, more for me to eat. I even took the extras home. I ate them both warm and cold, and both ways were delicious.
We also ordered the house special ($39.95 for two people). This was probably enough food to serve our whole table — something we discovered once our food started arriving. We appreciated the huge table we’d been seated at. The combo included a range of offerings, including kalbi (shortribs), fish, pork katsu and a hot tofu soup.
All of this came with the usual selection of Korean ban chan — a variety of small dishes such as kimchi, tofu and bean sprout salad. While I enjoyed the ban chan, I’ve been spoiled by Sun. I preferred her version of nearly everything. I will say, however, the kimchi was extremely good. Not as good as hers, but close, and she makes the world’s best kimchi.
Everything else was delicious. I especially enjoyed the hot tofu soup, even though I kept accidentally slurping it to the back of my throat and making myself cough — we asked for it to be spicy, and they obliged.
Our friend ordered the Korean barbecue pork ($23.95). This was one of the big hits of the night. It was tender and rich, with just the right balance of spice and a slightest sweetness. The portion was also huge. It seems a bit expensive, until you realize how much you get.
A few weeks later, Jerry and I went back, this time by ourselves.
I tried to talk Jerry into ordering the Korean pancakes but he refused. Instead we tried the appetizer sampler ($7.99) with potstickers, fried shrimp and some sort of fried, doughy thing I couldn’t identify. I was unimpressed. Next time, I’m ordering the Korean pancakes and eating them all myself.
This time the ban chan included tiny little anchovies that had been fried until slightly crispy. I can’t really describe the flavor, but it was excellent.
We also ordered the bulgogi and mushroom hot pot ($25.95, big enough for at least two people). This was spectacular. It comes in a huge bowl. The server sets it on a little portable stove. You let it warm to a full boil (it doesn’t take long) then turn off the heat and enjoy. Cooking it like this, just barely letting the vegetables get warm through, made for a delicious soup. We ordered the soup spicy and it was just hot enough to make my nose run, but not enough to scorch my throat or tongue. It was a soothing meal, fun to eat and conducive to slowly lingering over our food.
Speaking of the lingering — from our experience the service is a bit slow. Granted, both times we visited on moderately busy Friday nights. Just keep it in mind, this is a place to linger over your meal. And you’ll want to. It’s a nice place to enjoy a relaxing evening out.
And don’t worry, you’ll have food to take home and enjoy the next day.
The Korea House
20615 Bothell Everett Highway, 425-486-8866; www.thekoreahouseofseattle.com
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays, Wednesday, Thursdays and Fridays; noon to 9 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Closed Tuesdays.
Alcohol: Beer and wine
Vegetarian: A variety of options