February 25, 2006

universal laws of korean restaurants

My favorite place to eat Korean in Boston is Wu Chon House in Somerville. That is where i first encountered my favorite food, their version of tofu kimchi bokum. So you can imagine the shrieking and jumping up and down that occurred when I drove past a place called Woo Chon Restaurant here in Chicago.

I had to try it, just for the amusement value alone. I'd been twice to Hai Woon Dae, just because that was the only one I could remember both times I was called on to get a group of people to a Korean BBQ. So when tallasiandude was in town recently and had a yen for kalbi & soju, we decided to try Woo Chon. (particularly appropriate since he knows and loves the Somerville Wu Chon also) All we needed was adequate eats and we would have been happy, but Woo Chon smacked it out of the park -- it was WAY better than the already-good Hai Woon Dae. There must be a law in the universe that all restaurants called Woo Chon totally rule.

Chicago Woo Chon

We tried to order kalbi and some crazy black-pepper dish I forget exactly, but we couldn't have that because it wasn't cooked on the coals like the kalbi, so we ended up with kalbi and giant prawns for the grill, and a dish of kimchi bokum to start. We had barely ordered and gotten some very nice barley tea before the best scallion pancake I've ever had arrived at the table for no charge. (free! crunchy! eggy! oh yeah!)

Chicago Woo Chon

The kimchi bokum is my second favorite version -- my heart still belongs to Wu Chon's back home, but this version is very fresh and light in flavor, tangy and bright and full of lovely fatty pork and spicy vegetables. Quite different in style from my beloved, but very definitely yummy. Very happy to have found a worthy version of this here in Chicago.

And then the main course arrived. I don't usually post really big photos here, but behold the glory of a Woo Chon bbq spread:

Chicago Woo Chon

Head-on prawns. Glorious kalbi. More fucking pan chan than I have ever seen in one place, and ALL OF THEM freaking amazing. Holy crap. YUM. They use the inside leaves of the lettuce that can't be used as bbq wraps in a salad topped with fabulous dressing. They make a couple awesome kimchi styles. Two kinds of sweet daikon pickle (be still my heart). An insanely good pickled oyster mushroom, of which they kindly brought us a refill dish when we'd demolished the first one. Spectacular cucumber pickle slices. Bean sprouts, garlic, fish cake, dried silver fishies, the ubiquitous potato salad. Crazy good sweet red dried squid. A sesame oil + black pepper dipping sauce for the prawns, and a spicy bean paste for the kalbi. Dear god, we ate until we couldn't eat no more, and then we ate more. And knocked back a bottle of soju, 'cause that always seems like the right thing to do.

Chicago Woo Chon

Very late in the meal, tallasiandude (a self-proclaimed "damn rice eater") recovered enough from the kalbi euphoria to crave some rice, and asked the waitress for a bowl. She looked mildly confused and told us it was already coming, and moments later a bowl of pretty purple rice arrived along with another bowl of spicy miso stew. We had no idea it was coming (free, again) or we might have considered a) not letting our gluttony run completely amok, or b) not ordering that kimchi bokum. We tried valiantly to eat it all, it was so good, but we just couldn't. But since we are totally going back there, we can do it right next time.

To top off an already perfect meal, they brought us the little tiny bottles of fruity yogurt drink that we love so much, that seem only to appear in Korean restaurants, and that are the most perfect thing after a big spicy meal.

Random afternote: LTHForum has a recent thread about korean bbq, and says there's a kalbi special at Kang Nam through end of February - I guess i will have to try it, but after that I am going straight back to Woo Chon.

Posted by foodnerd at February 25, 2006 11:50 AM

Wow, sounds like an amazing meal. We have several Korean places here in the DC area that we really like. Some, like the place you went to have an amazing array of ponchan and one place has the best Seollontang we've ever eaten.

I bet the tiny fruity drink you got at the end of your meal was Bio-feel. It's a yogurt based drink. We've seen it in the Korean markets here but never tried it until it was given to us with our bill at one of the restaurants one night. If there's an Asian market in the area, check out the freezer section, I bet you'll find it sold by the case.

Posted by: Barbara (Biscuit Girl) at February 26, 2006 08:53 PM

if you can't find biofeel look for yogupoder

Posted by: at July 21, 2007 05:31 AM


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