Korea House

2700 W. Anderson Lane (in the Village Shopping Center), 458-2477
Mon-Thu, 11am-10pm; Fri, 11am-11pm; Sat, noon-11pm; Sun, noon-10pm

photograph by John Anderson
Location, location, location. The same old maxim that applies in real estate also applies in the restaurant business, except when it doesn't. Most restaurateurs would steer clear of a location nestled in the middle of a rambling Seventies brick shopping mall with no street frontage and only one small section of a street sign. But the Kim family of Korea House have steadily built a loyal clientele for their small family restaurant overlooking a quiet, beautifully landscaped pond. Once people make the first trip, they seem destined to return.

Two different friends insisted on initiating me to their favorite delights at Korea House. One introduced me to the economical daily lunch specials and exquisite sushi prepared by the expert sushi chef, Mr. Choi. The other made sure I experienced the cook-it-yourself Bul Go Ki. If there is another establishment in the city that offers diners the opportunity to cook their own dinner in the center of the table, it is currently unknown to me. Four people are seated around a table with a small gas grill in the center. The menu offers choices of raw marinated beef, chicken, or pork ($7.95), which each person can cook to their own specifications over the little grill. A wondrous array of delectable condiments accompany the meat selections plus white rice all around.

Cooking over a grill with a group of people is both somewhat rustic and festive at the same time. The shared activity of preparing part of the meal is a good ice breaker, involving everyone in the dinner conversation. While the meat was cooking, we nibbled on condiments such as marinated cucumbers, mung bean sprouts, kim chee, slivers of daikon and cabbage. Because the meat is cut into small pieces, it cooks fairly quickly. We hungrily retrieved our first servings and put more on the cook while we began the feast. For my taste, the pork and chicken were the leanest meat selections with the beef a little on the tough side. All the meats are marinated in what is described on the menu as "special Korean sauce," a barbeque-like sauce that imparts a warm, smoky-sweet flavor. It was a very enjoyable meal.

Less adventurous patrons can order the Bul Go Ki already cooked, served with the various condiments and a choice of white or fried rice. And, of course, there is an extensive menu of Korean specialties including big bowls of soups, rice and noodle dishes. But my prescription for a pleasant evening is this: Invite an intrepid group of friends to an early movie at the Village Cinema and afterwards, take a relaxing stroll along the brick paths to the center of the Village to listen to the frogs croaking around the lovely lily pond; sit at the Korea House sushi bar and sample Mr. Choi's California rolls ($6) or Austin rolls ($6) before settling down around the grill for good Bul Go Ki. You don't even have to clean up.

-- Virginia B. Wood

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