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Wednesday, October 3,2001

Korea House

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We all know the adage about books and covers but not everyone knows the one about restaurants. That one goes: don't judge a restaurant by its name. The most chi-chi name might cover a terrible restaurant, and a simple name might shroud a great place.

The latter is the truth in the case of the Korea House. This little restaurant serves lunch and dinner to locals and business people at its location on 28th street-as it says on the menu, "1 block south of K-Mart!"-with speed, good service, and tasty food. The menu offers a pretty good selection of Japanese food and Korean food specialties, both vegetarian and suited for the meat lover. The names of some of the dishes are as delightful to say as they are to eat-Bi Bim Bab, Chop Chae, Bulgogee. The Bi Bim Bab ($7.95/$7.50 without meat) is one of my personal favorites-cooked vegetables, rice, sliced cooked beef all topped with a sunny-side egg fried up. It is served in a big bowl with a spoon and a dish of red pepper sauce. Take your spoon and mix the whole thing together, flavoring the pepper sauce to taste, until everything is coated in egg and a big bowl of mish-mash. It is truly delicious. fun to eat, and a chance to play with your food a bit. Chop Chae ($7.95/$7.50 without meat) is clear rice noodles stir-fried with vegetables and beef and served with rice. This is a mild dish with a great texture and lots of visual appeal. Bulgogee is charbroiled, thinly sliced beef in their "special sauce" and is a tasty dish, too. We also tried the Mandoo ($6.95 for 12), which are little dumplings stuffed with beef or tofu and vegetables. The vegetarian ones were especially good-they were hot, crispy, and came with a flavorful soy dipping sauce.

All of the Korean dishes come with kim chee, which is a food-lover's food. It is spicy, pickled cabbage that is traditionally buried in the ground in earthenware jars and allowed to ferment until ready. A Korean who doesn't like kim chee is like a Navajo who doesn't like mutton-a cultural anomaly. And like mutton, kim chee is not widely loved by people of other cultures. However, you must try it when you eat at Korea House. They have two kinds-the real kind that they give to Korean diners-and the other, more mild kind (I call it gringo kim chee) that they give to the clearly non-Korean diners.

The Japanese side of the menu offers some great dishes, too. They have a good selection of Udon -thick noodles in hot broth with vegetables, meat, seafood, tempura, or a combination-and stir-fried noodles with vegetables and meat. I have heard that the Curries with rice are very good, and look forward to trying one sometime soon. We tried one of the Dunburi-vegetable in this case ($6.95)-and it was very good. It was a bowl of rice and cooked vegetables with egg and a sweet sauce. There is a third part of the menu titled Other Delights (Cook Yourself) that left me wondering what part of yourself you are supposed to cook. I think it is meat by the pound you can take home and cook-$7.95/lb for short ribs and beef, $6.95/lb for chicken. And for those who love kim chee, you can get some to take home for $4.99/quart. Everything we tried was good, the one complaint we had was that some of the dishes that should have been served hot (temperature hot, that is) were not and had to be sent back to the kitchen to be reheated. Our server was very accommodating about this, as she was when we asked her to turn down the music that was playing loudly near our table. The drink menu is mostly standard, with a couple of quirks. If you have never had barley tea, be sure to try it. It is not my favorite drink but is worth a try. They also have plum wine and Japanese beer at low prices. Strangely, they also have coke float on the menu. I ask you, where else can you get a plate of kim chee and a coke float? Try it, you might like it.

You can send questions, recommendations, comments, or complaints to Jessica Hersh at chefhersh@yahoo.com

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