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Thursday, May 29,2014

A shrine to flavor

Korea House is full of sights and tastes

By Josh Gross
Susan France

In the 2004 movie Dodgeball, there is a scene in which the lead, played by Vince Vaughn, walks into the house of his love interest, Kate Veatch, played by Christine Taylor, for the first time and finds himself in a full-on unicorn den, surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of toys, models, stuffed animals and porcelain statues.

Vaughn’s eyes bulging and his mind reeling, Taylor deadpans: “I like… unicorns.”

It’s hard not to think of that scene walking into Korea House in North Boulder. The unassuming stripmall storefront on the side of 28th gives no hint of what is contained within: numerous paintings, tchotchkes and shrines to beer and more. It is the opposite of a zen garden, somewhere between the cluttered majesty of a curio shop and the gilded opulence of a Thai temple, and as Korea House is fairly intimate, with only a dozen or so tables, it comes at you pretty quick.

But unlike Dodgeball, there’s no simple explanation, just a friendly smile, a menu and a table that you may have to share with a monkey statue.

And despite the glory of being someplace so unabashedly unexpected, once you sit down is when the good stuff actually starts.

Though the menu includes a selection of sushi rolls and a rotating selection of Japanese items, most of what to expect from the menu is in the name Korea House: Korean food.

The lesser-known and less diverse cousin of Japanese barbecue, traditional Korean dishes tend to lean close to Japanese bento boxes on a macro level, but bring their own flavors and flare to the table.

Korea House does a fantastic job with one of Korea’s signature dishes, bibimbap ($10.50), a bowl of rice covered up with a colorful array of shredded veggies, your choice of meat or tofu and a lightly cooked egg with the yolk still gooey. Korea House’s beef had a rich umami, and the shredded veggies were dressed in a sweet vinegar that gave the dish a light taste, even slath ered in the housemade sriracha and paired with the order of pickled cabbage served on the side.

The beauty of the bibimbap is that the combination of items are all so good that it’s hard to screw up, but still, Korea House’s take on the dish was as strong as I’m sure any future audition tape they make for the show Hoarders will be.

Another Korean standard is bulgogi, a flavorful approach to barbecuing beef. Korea House offers it in a bento box with rice and vegetables and your choice of dumplings or chicken for $10.50-$10.99.

Another item on the menu it’s hard to ignore is in the appetizers section: monkey brains ($7.50), which brings to mind a different scene in a different movie: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, in which Harrison Ford is served a monkey with its head chopped open. Yum. But be warned: it’s actually spicy tuna atop a fried avocado, not actual monkey brains. Sigh. And while it is tasty, it is not available on the lunch menu.

Korea House also offers a series of prix fixe meals featuring paired selections of menu specialities and drinks for prices ranging from $17.99-$45.99.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

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