Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Han Sung Oak

I've been meaning to get the review of Han Sung Oak up for a while, so here we go.

Our first shared Korean food experience was on our honeymoon in Toronto. I had never had it before and he hadn't had it in a long time. Turns out our B&B was right by Koreatown so one night we ventured out to a place called Joon's. Honestly it rocked. They bring many small dishes to eat with the meal called "panchan." I've since learned that Joon's was a bit more laid back on the panchan than other places but there was some delicious kim chee, some toasted seaweed, and a handful of other dishes. The star was their special take on Korean barbecue which we cooked at our table. Delicious. I'll spare you the details though so we can focus a bit more on Han Sung Oak.

Han Sung Oak is becoming one of our new favorites. We knew we wanted Korean one night and just picked it from a list. Set just a bit up the road from Bailey's Crossroads on Columbia Pike, Han Sung Oak is a sizable suburban restaurant at the end of yet another strip mall. We noticed upon walking in that we were among the very few non-Koreans in the place. A good sign!

We've been twice. The first time there was a brief wait and the second time we walked right in. Most recently, we were shown to our table by the host and were promptly greeted by a server. The servers all seem to be women, meaning I did not see men serving. They also wear very utilitarian blue outfits which I can't figure out if they feel Stepford Wivesy or not.

This time, we ordered the Korean barbecue with chicken (I say "Korean" barbecue like they would bring us "West Memphis" or something) and the bi bim bap. When we first went, we ordered an appetizer (a fabulous but LARGE) shrimp cake, and each had our own barbecue. That along with the piles o' panchan were way too much.

Of the various panchan there are a few standouts a slightly sweet and slightly vinegared dish of strips of tofu was a favorite. Generous portions of kimchee were appropriately cool and spicy and the other little salads were tasty as well.

So basically, they cook the barbecue order(s) on inset or tabletop grills while replenishing the little sides of panchan and keeping water glasses full. The service is attentive, but not chatty. Their not angling for a seat at your table or to sell you on the nightly special. It's all about getting the food on the table and making sure you have what you need. Nothing more, nothing less, and that works for me.

Our barbecued chicken was cooked until crisp and tender (although you can cook it more or less) and soaked in a savory beef broth (assuming it's beef). Placed on the servings of steamed white rice, it was comforting and warm.

I think what I like most is the intensity of the flavors. Sweet, salty, peppery, beefy, and yes, chickeny (shut up, it's my blog and I can make up words if I want).

The bibimbap we ordered was rice with beef, a fried egg, mushrooms, bean sprouts, spinach, and more. Again, comfort food. I'm honestly not sure I would order this again, but I think T would. As a Southern boy I tend to like my comfort food Paula Deen style so I would have liked more flavor, if not a pound or two of cheese. Of course, that'snot to say that I didn't eat quite a bit of it.

After finishing our food, we were brought a sweet cold sipping tea, I'm trying to figure out what it was and will know soon, but it was cleansing and tasty.

All in all, Han Sung Oak is tasty with attentive service. I look forward to our nextr visit!

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