Kimchi House (Seattle, WA)


For all the restaurants that Ballard boasts having, none has been Korean. Until now, that is. What used to be a sushi restaurant on 24th Avenue only a few weeks ago is now Kimchi House. There was no change in ownership, just a change in the chef and menu. After the father retired, the rest of the family decided it was time to introduce the neighborhood to Korean food.

The interior is very small, like the menu, displayed on what looks like two LCD monitors suspended above the counter. You order what you want and take a seat. The food will be served to you. Though the menu will expand in the coming weeks, what’s offered now is confined to bulgogi, kalbi, bibimbop, pretty much standard Korean fare. But then, there is the house sandwich with your choice of pork belly, beef or tofu; kimchi fries, made with kimchi, cheddar, sour cream and house sauce; and kimchi fried rice. I’m assuming that, like today, there will be specials posted on a whiteboard on the counter.

Another difference from standard Korean restaurants is that banchan (☆☆☆½) is served on a plate with your order, side dishes American-style. Today’s consisted of red potatoes simmered in a sweet sauce (gamja jorim), shredded radish kimchi and what the restaurant calls white kimchi, pickled napa cabbage, similar to what Japanese call hakusai no shiozuke. This was so good, gingery and sour that I had to purchase a tub of it, which with other condiments, is available for purchase in a refrigerator up front. The potatoes were excellent.

Pork belly is Kimchi House’s specialty, which meant I was going to go for it. There were nice grill marks on the marinated belly pieces. Tasted by itself, it was good (☆☆☆), equally so when dipped in the sweet kochujang sauce available in a squeeze bottle at every table.

Pork belly

Pork belly

My wife’s mushroom soon dubu (☆☆☆), a special of the day, was also good. Though the tofu pieces were rather small, the broth was better than most with mushroom and shrimp shell flavors. Slices of shiitake, onions, green onions and shrimp rounded out the ingredients.

Mushroom soon dubu

Mushroom soon dubu

With food this well prepared, Kimchi House should have no problems getting locals to make Korean food a part of their regular restaurant rotation.

Kimchi House
5809 24th Ave NW
Seattle, WA 98107
206.784.5322

Lunch at Kalbi Grill Express


A good review in the Seattle Times early this year was enough for three of us to drop in on Kalbi Grill Express for lunch in the Greenwood neighborhood. Could we get good Korean food closer to Seattle than Lynnwood? We were surprised that we were the only lunchtime patrons until a lone customer came in later. Although its name suggests an emphasis on Korean BBQ, the menu said otherwise. Two of us decided on beef soon dubu, another on beef bibimbop, which the Times praised.

Let’s start off with the banchan, the appetizers that every Korean restaurant serves. No other cuisine that I can think of pays this much attention to making little side dishes to accompany a meal, doubtless taking time and effort to make. I’ve often only wanted banchan and rice. Which leads up to Kalbi Grill’s unorthodox approach to offering it, namely, with certain dishes you select only three appetizers, all displayed behind a glass counter, per individual order. Oddly, the bibimbop didn’t qualify. For variety, the obvious strategy was for the rest of us to pick three different ones. Whether these were refillable as at any Korean restaurant, we never determined, though there was no reason to suspect otherwise.

Banchan

Banchan

The beef soon dubu (☆☆½) was adequate, though the broth was overly salty and lacked the depth of flavor I enjoy at Seoul Hot Pot. The beef was cut into little pieces, more tender than I would have expected in a stew that arrived at the table bubbling (literally) hot. Also in the broth were zucchini, enoki and regular mushrooms and green onions. The silken tofu, rather than cut into chunks, were cylindrical in shape, as if cut with a tube. In summary, the stew was adequate but not likely to make me forget Seoul Hot Pot’s.

Beef soon dubu

Beef soon dubu

An oversight when we received the bibimbop (☆☆) was not having been provided with the kochuchang sauce. We had to ask for it, whereupon the owner apologized and agreed that bibimbop would not be bibimbop without it. Innocent enough mistake. But, even when served with beef, zucchini, bean sprouts, spinach, shredded carrots, cucumber, eggplant, shiitake mushrooms and an over-easy egg, the rice bowl failed to generate much excitement, bland and inadequately seasoned. Adding sauce did little to liven up flavor. What’s more, as reported in the Times review, rather than being served in an earthenware bowl that when heated up characteristically crusts up the rice at the bottom, it was some sort of heavy plastic material (which would never be subjected to high heat), making us wonder whether the reviewer and we ordered the same thing, or if the management has cut corners.

Beef bibimbop

Beef bibimbop

We’re not likely to return. For now, our favorite Korean restaurant reasonably close to home remains Seoul Hot Pot in Redmond.

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Kalbi Grill Express
8202 Greenwood Ave N
Seattle, WA 98103
206.457.5930

Soon Dubu at Seoul Hot Pot (Redmond, WA)


The first time I had soon dubu jjigae was in Santa Clara in 2002. My daughter’s roommate, when they were living in the San Jose area at the time, took us to So Gong Dong Tofu House. I recall what a revelation it was, a savory and spicy stew featuring soft dubu (tofu). Since then, I’ve had it many times, both in California and Washington, in various forms. This is one of those dishes that really satisfies when the weather gets cold.

On the Eastside, the pickings of Korean restaurants are pretty slim. With the closure of Paldo Market (and therefore the Korean restaurant inside its doors), the choices got slimmer. Luckily, Seoul Hot Pot in Redmond has been around for a few years. More than that, the food here is pretty good. Daily specials written on sheets of paper are pasted on the walls.
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